- Brighton’s Zak Emmerson scores from the penalty spot (24)
- Palace equalise instantly through Kevin Gonzalez (25)
- Half-time: Crystal Palace U18s 1-1 Brighton
- Eagles captain Aiden Steele puts the hosts in front (53)
- Paddy McCarthy’s side secured the victory to overtake Brighton
- Full-time: Crystal Palace U18s 2-1 Brighton
Crystal Palace started the game level on points with fourth-placed Brighton, albeit with a game in hand.
The visitors were in the better form, unbeaten since October 24 while Palace had lost their last three, but both sides started strongly, snapping into tackles and playing at a high tempo.
Five minutes in, Brighton winger Jack Leahy cut inside from the left-hand side and shot low towards the far corner. His effort took a slight deflection, but Joe Whitworth got down sharply to push the ball wide.
The visitors’ left-back Zak Sturge went on the overlap and put in a floated cross which Andy Moran nodded back inside to lone striker Zak Emmerson, but his ambitious first-time volley sailed just over.
After ten minutes Palace’s Kevin Gonzalez played a smart one-two with Jack Wells-Morrison and slid a fine ball through for David Omilabu, but the striker’s deft chip was pushed over by Fynn Talley and landed on the roof of the net.
Halfway through the first period, Cardo Siddik played a loose pass and Brighton captain Cameron Peupion was played in down the right, drawing a half-challenge from Tayo Adaramola in the penalty area.
Despite weak contact, the referee pointed to the spot and Emmerson sent Whitworth the wrong way to open the scoring.
Palace responded superbly and equalised a minute later.
A testing cross from Dylan Thiselton had Talley scrambling and when Brighton failed to clear, Jesurun Rak Sakyi’s blocked drive fell to Gonzalez, who slammed home gleefully from with the last chance of the half.
After the restart, a Siddik header spun fortunately for the away side giving Moran a clear run on goal, but Adaramola did superbly to lever the ball away from danger.
Shortly afterwards captain Aiden Steele put the Eagles in front. Gonzalez and Fionn Mooney linked up cleverly on the edge of the box before Mooney squared it to Steele, who calmly passed it into the bottom right corner to give Palace the lead.
On the hour mark Rak Sakyi burst past his marker and fed Mooney, but his low driven cross was just beyond the desperately outstretched right leg of Omilabu.
Gonzalez used his body well to win the ball in midfield before releasing the irrepressible Adaramola down the left channel, but Brighton centre-back Odel Offiah did enough to make sure Omilabu couldn’t get strong contact on his centre.
Attacking substitutes Jadan Raymond and Victor Akinwale added fresh legs and did a fine job leading the home side’s pressing, winning fouls up the pitch as the latter stages became increasingly scrappier.
Five minutes before the final whistle Raymond dispossessed Offiah just outside the six-yard box but Talley did well to accelerate off his line and smother the midfielder’s poked shot.
The result means Paddy McCarthy’s side have won seven of their ten league games and overtaken their fierce rivals in the table, ahead of their next match hosting current table-toppers Fulham on January 16.
Crystal Palace: Joe Whitworth; Dylan Thiselton, Dan Quick, Cardo Siddik, Tayo Adaramola; Aiden Steele (c), Jack Wells-Morrison; Jesurun Rak Sakyi (Jadan Raymond 77), Fionn Mooney (Maliq Cadogan 90+2), Kevin Gonzalez (Victor Akinwale 77); David Omilabu.
Substitutes not used: Owen Goodman, Joe Sheridan.
Brighton: Fynn Talley; Cameron Peupion (c), Ben Jackson, Odel Offiah, Zak Sturge; Toby Collyer; Marcus Ifill (Casper Nilsson 45), Jaami Qureshi (Matt Everitt 45), Andy Moran, Jack Leahy; Zak Emmerson (Todd Miller 65).
Substitutes not used: Toby Bull, Nathan Jenkins.