Brighton 2-1 Fulham: Seagulls stage second-half comeback
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 26/11/16 7:29pm
Brighton staged a second-half fightback to close the gap on Newcastle at the top of the Sky Bet Championship with a 2-1 home win over Fulham.
Kevin McDonald's header had given the visitors a deserved half-time lead but two exquisite finishes from strikers Sam Baldock and Glenn Murray moved the Seagulls to within two points of their promotion rivals.
It was only Fulham's second defeat on their travels this term, and they were denied a late leveller when in-form Albion keeper David Stockdale dived low to keep out Tom Cairney's stoppage-time effort.
Brighton, meanwhile, have lost just once at the Amex since New Year's Day and were denied early on when home-scoring specialist Murray struck a shot that was arcing towards the roof of the goal until Fulham goalkeeper David Button flicked it over the crossbar with his fingertips.
The Cottagers took advantage of some slack Brighton defending to take the lead in the 18th minute. Norwegian international Stefan Johansen hoisted in a deep corner and, after Albion keeper Stockdale slipped in the six-yard box, unmarked defender McDonald guided his header home from a tight angle.
With referee Keith Stroud initially not awarding the goal, the visitors were grateful to the watchful eyes of the assistant referee, who correctly judged the ball had fully crossed the line before Steve Sidwell hooked clear.
Seagulls boss Chris Hughton, joined on the touchline for the first time by new assistant Paul Trollope following Colin Calderwood's departure to Aston Villa, saw his side draw level in spectacular fashion seven minutes into the second half.
Winger Anthony Knockaert delivered a free-kick deep into the box and, after Tomas Kalas only cleared to the edge of the area, striker Baldock flashed a powerful right-footed volley into the bottom-right corner.
As the contest degenerated into a scrap, there was a heated touchline exchange between the two benches following a touchline confrontation of Baldock and Johansen, for which the referee took no action.
Baldock was denied a second goal 15 minutes from time by a combination of the post and keeper as his low shot from no more than six yards cannoned off the upright and ballooned off Button's boot to safety.
But Baldock turned provider four minutes later by delivering a perfect cross to the unmarked Murray, who had the time and space to guide his 11th Amex goal of the season into the net and extend Brighton's unbeaten run to 12 matches.
Brighton manager Chris Hughton:
"It was a really big win for us, particularly as it was not one of our better performances. They were better than us in the first half because we gave them too much room and we were pleased when half-time came.
"But it shows the character of the team that, despite not being at our best, we were able to fight our way back and that is what you need when you are up there challenging.
"It was an important win because it was unexpected for Newcastle to lose, and one thing I still feel is that the team closest to Newcastle in the table at the end of the season will have a really good chance of going up."
Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic:
"It was an ugly afternoon for us. We should be going back to London with some points, but we paid the price for not taking our chances and they were more clinical.
"They punished us very hard. I don't have the sensation that they dominated us in the second half and made so many chances. They made only half chances - the complete opposite of what we made in the first half. If you don't score, you need to concentrate defensively and we didn't."