Brighton maintained their push for automatic promotion to the Premier League with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Derby County on Friday.
First-half goals from Anthony Knockaert and Sam Baldock set the Seagulls on their way to a vital three points, before Glenn Murray sealed a routine win in the second period.
The result lifts Chris Hughton's side level with Sky Bet Championship leaders Newcastle and, crucially, nine points clear of third-placed Huddersfield, strengthening their grip on a top-two finish.
Defeat all but extinguishes any lingering hopes Derby had of reaching the play-offs, with Steve McClaren's men 10 points adrift of sixth place having played a game more.
The Seagulls made the perfect start when Knockaert drove them ahead after only five minutes with his 13th goal of the season.
Skipper Bruno set up Knockaert who got the better of the recalled Julien de Sart before firing home left-footed into the far corner.
Brighton had gone close moments earlier through Czech international Jiri Skalak, who shot wide of goalkeeper Scott Carson's left-hand post following a pass by Knockaert.
Carson required treatment after a collision with team-mate Jacob Butterfield before Brighton striker Murray, recalled as the Seagulls' only change in place of Tomer Hemed, headed a Skalak corner wide at the near post.
Baldock should have hit the target for Brighton when firing wide from Knockaert's pass at the end of neat build-up of first-time passing.
Baldock was off target again mid-way through the half at the near post after more good work by Knockaert.
Brighton's dominance also saw central defender Lewis Dunk head over and Baldock had a goal-bound shot saved low down by Carson.
The hosts deservedly increased their advantage two minutes before the interval through Baldock, who latched onto a pass from Murray to sidefoot low into the net from eight yards.
McClaren attempted to freshen up his side by introducing Will Hughes and Craig Bryson for the second half, but Brighton continued to pose the problems and Knockaert was denied a second goal when his fierce long-range effort was tipped over by Carson.
Derby, with only one goal in their previous six away games, finally produced a threat when, from a cross by Cyrus Christie, Matej Vydra directed a header onto the angle of post and bar.
The visitors were indebted to an important block by Chris Baird after Murray got a shot away when neatly chesting the ball down.
But Murray was on target to seal Albion's win 12 minutes from time with his 18th goal of the season, firing in from seven yards out after Knockaert delivered a low cross.
Brighton boss Chris Hughton:
"We were good tonight, particularly when you consider we had three games in six days on the back of one of our most disappointing result last Saturday. We were good on Tuesday and we were very good today. We can only win the games in front of us and at the moment we will have to win a certain amount of games because the group of teams at the top are very strong.
"It was a big win for us, but we can only try and keep that gap between ourselves and the teams below us as big as possible - the only way you can do that is by winning games."
Derby boss Steve McClaren:
"Brighton are the benchmark of the Championship and they were fantastic, aggressive and physical. Not many teams have done what they did to us. We were second best and didn't deserve to win. Brighton will go up, they've got strength determination, physicality all round. I was very impressed with them.
"We couldn't keep the ball, we lost the ball too easily in midfield and up front. We didn't do the basics well, but take nothing away from Brighton, they were excellent from the first minute to last. Tonight epitomised how far we need to go if we want to reach the play-offs or further next year."