Brighton hit back to beat Fulham and close gap on Championship leaders Newcastle
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.
A combination of some excellent goalkeeping from Stockdale and wayward finishing prevented Slavisa Jokanovic's men from increasing their first-half lead.
The former Fulham keeper produced an excellent one-handed save to keep out Togo international Floyd Ayite's arrowing drive from long distance.
And the 31-year-old, who boasts nine Championship clean sheets this term, kept out Scott Malone's cross-cum-shot after Nigerian international Sone Aluko had blasted wide when well-placed.
But 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.
Stockdale came to Brighton's rescue again midway through the second half, tipping a close-range Ayite shot round the post.
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.
Source : PA