In a game of very few opportunities, Wilfried Zaha went close for the visitors early on when he forced Mathew Ryan into a point-blank stop, while the Seagulls’ best chance came when Andros Townsend was forced to clear off his own line to prevent Glenn Murray from coming back to haunt his former club.
After a four-year wait for a derby, unsurprisingly the game kicked off amidst a feverish atmosphere created by both sets of fans, but it was the visiting supporters from south London who had the first breathless moment on 14 minutes as they went close to seeing their team take the lead.
A goal-kick from Wayne Hennessey was flicked on by the returning Christian Benteke into Zaha’s path, who in turn found his strike partner. A pair of Brighton defenders blocked the Belgian’s attempt but the ball squirmed out to Zaha, who forced Ryan into an excellent reaction stop just as he seemed to set to once again net a famous goal on the south coast.
That would be as dangerous as Hodgson’s team got during a tight first half, which as it progressed the Seagulls began to get stronger. On 21 minutes Lewis Dunk powerfully met a Pascal Gross corner with his head which Wayne Hennessey managed to claim, and then six minutes later the Welshman was called into action again when Jose Izquierdo was afforded too much space to jink into the box and get a shot away that forced the Eagles keeper into another save, with Dale Stephens blazing the rebound horribly over from range.
There was real danger when a swift counter-attack saw Gross spurn a three-on-three opportunity when he shot tamely at Hennessey, but while they were quietened for most of the half, Palace showed they had the ability to nick a goal and Luka Milivojevic nodded a Yohan Cabaye corner over before a tense 45 minutes drew to a close.
In the early stages of the second half, Brighton forced a series of corners which led to Dunk rippling the side-netting with a backheel, and it seemed that set-pieces would be the most likely avenue for Chris Hughton’s team to take the lead and another excellent Gross delivery found Shane Duffy who sent an effort onto the roof of the Eagles net.
The pressure continued to mount and Stephens went much closer than his previous attempt with a strike from 30 yards that whistled past Hennessey’s post, but as the game ticked towards the final 10 minutes the more likely one moment of brilliance would take the derby-day spoils and Zaha nearly produced it during a swift counter-attack, but couldn’t quite replicate his play-off heroics as he blazed into the travelling support.
As another aerial bombardment commenced, the Eagles were indebted to Townsend who managed to knock the ball off the line with his knee to prevent Murray from scoring against the team he helped get promoted with a header from yet another corner, and the sriker was soon replaced by Tomar Hemed but was afforded a warm departure from the Palace fans.
In the dying moments, Ruben Loftus-Cheek tried to curl the ball home for a memorable late winner for Hodgson’s team but could only find Ryan who made a comfortable stop, and James Tomkins sent a speculative effort wide of the mark from 35 yards, meaning it would prove to be just a solitary, but still useful, point gained for Palace.
Brighton: Ryan, Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner, Knockaert, Gross (Brown 81), Stephens, Propper, Izquierda (March 70), Murray (Hemed 84). Subs not used: Krul, Schelotto, Goldson, Kayal.
Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Sakho, Tomkins, Schlupp, Loftus-Cheek, Milivojevic, Cabaye (McArthur 65), Townsend, Zaha, Benteke. Subs not used: Speroni, Van Aanholt, Fosu-Mensah, Dann, Puncheon, Sako.