Brighton go top after seeing off struggling Birmingham
Brighton leapfrogged Newcastle again in their battle at the top of the Sky Bet Championship with a convincing 3-1 home victory over Birmingham.
Goals from Glenn Murray, Tomer Hemed and Uwe Hunemeier took the Seagulls 10 points clear of third-placed Reading and closer to automatic promotion with six games remaining.
Birmingham, who replied late on through Che Adams, have won only two of 19 league games under Gianfranco Zola and remain perilously placed above the relegation zone.
The Seagulls got off to a great start with leading marksman Murray giving them the lead after only 66 seconds.
Murray pounced to hit his 20th goal of the season from eight yards after skipper Bruno, returning after missing two games with a groin injury, squared the ball to him.
It was a flowing move that led to the opener with Beram Kayal putting Anthony Knockaert away with a ball over the top.
Albion had a let off in the eighth minute, however, when Birmingham skipper Craig Gardner saw his effort from 25 yards rebound off the underside of the crossbar.
Seagulls goalkeeper David Stockdale later saved low down after Gardner fired another free-kick through the wall.
Birmingham striker Clayton Donaldson had a shot blocked and Adams fired over before the Seagulls were forced into a change with centre-half Lewis Dunk coming off on the half-hour through illness to be replaced by Fikayo Tomori.
Albion had a penalty appeal waved away when Solly March, restored to the wing in place of Jiri Skalak, went down after a challenge from Polish midfielder Krystian Bielik.
Israel international striker Hemed, restored to partner Murray in place of Arsenal loanee Chuba Akpom, doubled the Seagulls' advantage only three minutes after the break.
Hemed headed in from close range at the far post after Murray nodded a cross from Bruno back across goal.
Brighton took a firm grip on the game when German defender Hunemeier scored his first Albion goal to make it 3-0 in the 54th minute.
Hunemeier shot through a crowd of players and the ball beat former Albion keeper Tomasz Kuszczak after taking a deflection off Donaldson.
The Seagulls, on the way to a 10th home win out of 12 in the league, made their second change when Knockaert gave way to Jamie Murphy midway through the second half.
Hunemeier almost scored for a second time when he put a glancing header wide of the far post following a corner by substitute Oliver Norwood.
Brighton's hopes of clinching a 21st clean sheet of the season were spoiled six minutes from time when Adams fired home from close range after a pass by substitute Jacques Maghoma.
Source : PA