Brighton claimed their first win at Villa Park in a dramatic encounter with a superb curling effort from Solly March sealing a 2-1 victory against Aston Villa.
It was an entertaining, end-to-end game between two sides who have played wonderful football this season, but with differing fortunes. Brighton struck early on as Danny Welbeck (12) netted his first goal for the club, adding to Aston Villa's woes after an early injury to Ross Barkley.
But, after a strong end to the first half, the hosts struck back two minutes after the break as Ezri Konsa (47) sent Bertrand Traore's free-kick into the back of the net. It was then a wonderful, curling effort from March (56) which secured Brighton's second win of the season and their first at Villa Park.
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There was a dramatic finish, though, as Tariq Lamptey was sent off in the 91st minute after two quick yellow cards.
March then almost went from hero to villain when he was penalised for a foul on Trezeguet deep into injury-time, with referee Michael Oliver pointing to the spot. But, after consulting VAR and the pitchside monitor, he judged that March had touched enough of the ball before catching Trezeguet to rule the penalty out.
It is a precious three points for Brighton, who remain in 16th on nine points, six clear of the bottom three ahead of the remaining games this weekend. Aston Villa stay in fifth place.
How Brighton survived a late scare
Aston Villa dominated the opening exchanges, but suffered a blow inside two minutes when Barkley went down clutching his hamstring and was soon replaced by Traore. They were hit again shortly after as, with their first attack, Brighton took the lead.
Pascal Gross and Adam Lallana linked up well in a tight midfield space, with the latter sending the ball forward for his Welbeck. It was a bursting run from the striker as he expertly lifted the ball over the oncoming Emiliano Martinez for his first Brighton goal.
Aston Villa: Martinez (6), Cash (6), Konsa (7), Mings (7), Targett (7), Luiz (6), McGinn (6), Trezeguet (6), Barkley (n/a), Grealish (7), Watkins (7).
Subs used: Traore (7), Hourihane (6), El Ghazi (5).
Brighton: Ryan (7), Lamptey (7), Dunk (6), White (7), Webster (6), March (8), Gross (7), Bissouma (7), Lallana (7), Welbeck (7), Maupay (6).
Subs used: Veltman (6), Burn (n/a), Molumby (n/a).
Man of the match: Solly March.
Welbeck had two glorious chances to add his second shortly after. March send a wonderful cross his way, but Aston Villa just managed to clear, before the spritely Lamptey set him up from the right. However, Welbeck showed signs of rustiness with his touch, sending the ball into Martinez's arms.
The half continued as a breathless, end-to-end affair with both sides having sights of goal, but Villa ended it strongly and should have equalised. In the 39th minute, the ever-impressive Jack Grealish delivered a free-kick, but Tyrone Mings' touch at the far post sent the ball looping into the air. Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan was aware of the danger and booted the ball off the line before the lurking Ollie Watkins could connect.
- Aston Villa named the same XI from their win against Arsenal. Their only change came on the bench with Keinan Davis replaced by Bertrand Traore.
- Brighton made two changes. Lewis Dunk returned after suspension with Solly March also fit to start after an ankle injury. They replaced Joel Veltman and Dan Burn in the starting XI.
A minute later and some sensational defending from Ben White stopped another wonderful Aston Villa attack. Grealish was involved again, darting down the right channel and easily away from Adam Webster before sending a cross in for the run of Watkins. However, White just got a foot onto the ball ahead of the striker.
Aston Villa picked up where they left off after the break and scored almost instantly. Despite the introduction of Joel Veltman at half-time for Lallana, there was some horrible defending from Brighton. Traore whipped in a free-kick and unmarked Konsa drove at the delivery from deep, sending it home with an outstretched foot.
But Brighton took just nine minutes to find a reply and it was a wonderful goal to secure a much-needed three points. It was some patient build-up from the visitors before Gross swept the ball to March on the left of the area. It was then a sumptuous, curling effort into the far corner from the midfielder, beating Martinez's leap.
There were fewer clear-cut chances than the first half but it was still an entertaining encounter, with the most dramatic moments coming as four minutes of added time were shown. Brighton ended the game with 10 men after two quick bookings for Lamptey in the 88th and 91st minutes, although the second for a foul on Grealish was hotly protested.
Minutes later, Villa thought they had been given a lifeline when March was penalised for a kick on Trezeguet. The midfielder indicated that he had touched the ball before the player and, after consolation with VAR and the pitchside monitor, referee Oliver agreed and ruled out the spot-kick.
Man of the match - Solly March
It was a headline-grabbing performance from March as his wonderful curling finish secured the win for Brighton. He did not score at all last season and now has two this term.
Along with Lamptey and Welbeck, he was also the man trying to make things happen. He had seven open-play crosses - the most of the Brighton team - and also topped the charts for possession gained (10).
He also helped out in defence, making four tackles - joint with Yves Bissouma - and helped with four clearances and one interception.
Speaking about March after the game, Brighton boss Graham Potter said: "It seemed to take a while for the ball to come to Solly, but it's a fantastic finish. I'm delighted for him that he can contribute to the scoreline. We've been trying to get him into those areas more and more and it's pleasing for him to get the winner."
What the managers said
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith said: "I'm at a loss to explain it [the overturned penalty], if I'm honest. I thought VAR was there for clear and obvious. Is it clear and obvious? I'm not sure. Everybody heard the noise within the stadium of the follow through.
"If VAR sent him [Michael Oliver] over there because he thinks it's not a foul because he [March] touched the ball before then I understand it but my players still believe it's a penalty. I'd be aggrieved if he'd given it against me simply because he touched the ball but, again, I don't know what a free-kick is now because that is given as a free-kick anywhere else on the pitch.
"I'm frustrated that we've created some big chances and didn't take them. We've been very good and clinical in recent weeks, but we missed some massive chances today. We gave some poor goals away and that recipe is a defeat. In no shape or form did I feel we deserved to get beaten today, I didn't think we were at our best but I thought we were good enough to get at least a point.
"He [Barkley] felt his hamstring two minutes into the game and we'll have to get it scanned first to see how bad it is. He seems fairly hopeful that it won't be too long but we'll have to wait and see after the scan."
Brighton manager Graham Potter said: "We've had four penalties go against us, we've been on the wrong side of things a little bit so it's nice to have one go our way because in the last minute of the game, your heart is in your mouth and I think it would have been harsh on the players with the effort they put into the game.
"It looked like it was a bit exaggerated, to be honest and I thought there was a touch from Solly on the ball, but, again, it's fine margins. In the Premier League, the margins are so small and you always have to survive something if you want three points, especially somewhere like Aston Villa.
"It [Lamptey's second booking] was on the opposite side of the pitch to where I was and I haven't seen it back. Tariq says there wasn't much contact so whether it's a yellow card or not, I don't know.
"I would say our performances have been quite good without the results. At some point, it's important to get those three points and it was important for us today. I'm delighted for the players because we've had to suffer a little bit and three points is nice."
- No team has conceded more home Premier League goals than Aston Villa this season (11, level with Newcastle United).
- Only Robbie Fowler (5) has scored more away Premier League goals at Villa Park than Danny Welbeck (4).
- Pascal Gross has been directly involved in 29 goals for Brighton in the Premier League (12 goals, 17 assists), more than any other player.
Aston Villa are back on Monday Night Football on November 30 when they travel to West Ham, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 8pm. Brighton face a tough game next Saturday when they host Liverpool in the Premier League; kick-off 12.30pm.