Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Newcastle United 1: Gross breaks Albion's near 12-hour scoreless streak to earn vital point
Pascal Gross' header on 75 minutes in Brighton & Hove Albion's 1-1 draw with Newcastle United in the Premier League this evening saw the Seagulls pick up a vital point in their battle against relegation and break a near 12-hour run without a goal.
The German winger quickly reacted to Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka's hesitancy in the box to head home and send the Amex into a frenzy.
After relegation rivals Cardiff City were beaten 1-0 earlier in the day at already-relegated Fulham, Albion now hold a four point advantage over the Welsh club with two fixtures left to play.
Hughton made four changes and tinkered the Seagulls' formation following Tuesday night's loss at Tottenham Hotspur.
Reverting to a 4-4-2 topscorer Glenn Murray partnered Florin Andone up-front, as skipper Bruno, Jose Izquierdo, and Beram Kayal also returned.
Anthony Knockaert came back into the squad after serving his three-match suspension, but the Frenchman had to make do with a place on the bench.
Rafa Benitez made three changes to the team that overcame Southampton 3-1 at home last Saturday, with two being enforced.
Captain Jamaal Lascelles missed out through illness while Miguel Almiron's injury last weekend ruled him out for the rest of the season.
Ki Sung-yeung dropped to the bench with Federico Fernandez, Jonjo Shelvey, and Christian Atsu replacing the trio.
The first 15 minutes was a dour affair, as Brighton looked content to sit back and let Newcastle leisurely stroke the ball about the pitch.
The 'highlight' of the opening quarter saw Albion utterly butcher a set-piece routine in a promising area. After winning a free-kick on the edge of the box on three minutes, Gross and Bernardo contrived to roll the ball back-and-forth to one another before seeing the ball roll across the area to no one at all.
Brighton's defensive set-up proved to be their undoing on 18 minutes as Paul Dummett was allowed to stroll down the left-flank, completely unchallenged by anyone in a blue and white shirt.
The Welsh international swung a cross into the box, which was expertly knocked-down by Salomon Rondon for Perez to rifle home his seventh goal in seven league games.
Newcastle nearly took advantage again of almost statue-like defending from the hosts. On 36 minutes Fabian Schar was allowed to wander into the box down the right-hand side but, fortunately for the Seagulls, the Swiss defender lost his balance when shaping to shoot allowing Mathew Ryan to get down low to snuff out the danger.
This drew the ire of the Albion faithful, as they loudly tried to rouse Brighton out of their aimless stupor.
But the Seagulls continued to sleep-walk through the game. As Mike Dean blew the half-time whistle Albion had only managed to see 38 per cent of the ball and had failed to register a shot on goal.
The restart saw two Brighton substitutions in quick succession, although one was enforced. Solly March was thrown on in place of the ineffective Andone at the break.
And just four minutes later Kayal had to limp off due to a hamstring injury, with Yves Bissouma replacing the Israeli midfielder.
March did inject the much needed zip into Albion's play. The winger provided a cross for Murray down the right on 53 minutes but the big forward was unable guide his header towards goal.
The sparkling March was at it again on the hour mark as the midfielder dribbled in from the right before firing off a shot that was well blocked.
This chance saw the Albion fans find their voice as Brighton produced more fight in the opening 15 minutes of the second period than the entirety of the first-half.
A minute later Shane Duffy saw his header from a corner go wide but Albion were now firmly in with a chance of getting something from the game.
Brighton made their third and final change as Knockaert came on for Izquierdo on 66 minutes. The Colombian really struggled to get a foothold in the game and looked as if he hadn't reached full match-fitness after his injury.
The hosts had a penalty shout turned down on 72 minutes. Murray, attempting to meet a Bernardo cross from the left, was knocked in the back by Matt Ritchie.
Referee Mike Dean and his linesman ruled that the challenge had been a legal one despite vociferous opposition from the Albion players and supporters.
The Seagulls had well and truly ramped up the pressure on Newcastle and they were finally rewarded with the goal that broke their near 12-hour scoreless streak.
A Bruno cross from the right saw Murray out-jump Schar to flick the ball into the path of Gross who quickly nipped in to nod the ball past a hesitant Dubravka.
Cue pandemonium at the Amex. The stadium was now jumping and Albion had been as superb in the second-half as they had been dreadful in the first 45 minutes.
Brighton had a gilt-edged chance to win the game right at the death. A Knockaert cross from the left was flapped at by Dubravka and all Murray needed to do was head home from a couple of yards out.
But the Seagulls' topscorer managed to somehow head the ball over the bar and dash any chance of claiming all three points.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Ryan, Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bernardo, Gross, Stephens, Kayal (Bissouma 49), Izquierdo (Knockaert 66), Murray, Andone (March 46). Unused: Button, Burn, Bong, Locadia.
Newcastle United: Dubravka, Manquillo, Schar, Fernandez, Dummett, Richie, Hayden, Shelvey (Ki 73), Perez (Kenedy 33), Atsu (Muto 80), Rondon. Unused: Darlow, Yedlin, Barreca, Diame, Muto.
Referee: Mike Dean