Report: Albion 2 Derby 1A clinical first-half performance helped the Seagulls to a 2-1 victory against Derby County at the Amex, maintaining the 100 per cent record in 2013.
Ashley Barnes and Andrea Orlandi secured a two-goal lead at half-time but the home side were made to sweat when the visitors pulled a goal back with 20 minutes remaining.
Gus Poyet made three changes to his side that cantered to FA Cup victory against Newcastle United last weekend with Will Buckley, Tomasz Kuszczak and Inigo Calderon returning to the starting line-up.
And his side were straight out of the blocks to record the Amex Stadium’s fastest goal when Barnes – who started as an out-and-out striker with Craig Mackail-Smith missing with a tight hamstring - tapped the ball home from four yards inside two minutes.
Calderon was starting his first game for a month and his impact was instant as he set his compatriot David Lopez off down the right. His inch-perfect low cross was met by Barnes to turn the ball home.
It was a dreary and blustery day in Brighton but the start certainly brightened up the atmosphere for the Albion fans, and moments later the Seagulls asked further questions of a withering Derby defence when Dean Hammond whipped in an inviting cross, which was cleared by Richard Keogh with a timely header.
But at the other end the Rams showed their threat inside ten minutes when former Wigan striker Conor Sammon robbed the Albion defence of the ball before setting up Paul Coutts, but his shot was well blocked by Adam El-Abd.
The Irishman Sammon looked to be Derby’s main threat and he linked up well with John Brayford on the edge of the Albion box before running through one-on-one with Kuszczak - but Buckley showed his unrivalled pace to track back and steal the ball off Sammon before he had a chance to pull the trigger.
And that would prove to be a decisive moment as Poyet’s side went up the other end and doubled their lead through Orlandi. Lopez and Calderon linked up down the right again and it was the latter who bent the ball to the back post, which the midfielder met with a bullet header.
The Albion fans had more to cheer when Spanish midfielder Vicente emerged from the bench to warm up, which was greeted by rapturous applause from the Albion faithful.
An animated Nigel Clough would have had choice words to say at half-time and the visitors appeared for the second half showing more endeavour but it was the home side who looked the more dangerous when Buckley robbed Kieron Freeman of the ball.
The 24-year-old, playing his first game since committing his long-term future to the club, galloped clear of the Rams defence before playing a low ball to Barnes but Gareth Roberts recovered to make a vital block.
Calderon could have added a third but he misguided a free header, while moments later Buckley was let loose down the left by a sweeping Lopez pass. He took on Roberts inside the Derby box but keeper Legzdins made a smart stop to deny Buckley at his near post.
And on the hour-mark the game should have been put to bed for the home side; Barnes held the ball up before sliding the ball to Buckley inside the 18-yard box. His shot was blocked but dropped into the path of Orlandi six yards out, whose shot was somehow blocked by Legzdins. The ball rebounded to Orlandi but the Derby keeper made another unbelievable save while on the ground, to keep his side in the game.
And the save could have been more important than first thought when Derby pulled themselves back into the game with 20 minutes remaining. The home side had conceded a string of free-kicks and were punished when Jamie Ward’s low free-kick was stabbed past Kuszczak by Jeff Henrick from six yards.
Poyet reacted to the goal by introducing Gary Dicker and Kazenga LuaLua at the expense of Orlandi and Buckley as he looked to regain control of the game, which had become too rugged for his liking.
LuaLua wasted little time getting into the game and he robbed Brayford of the ball and looked to be one-on-one with Legzdins but was dragged by the full-back, which went unpunished by to referee Iain Williamson. Replays suggest the Derby defender was fortunate not to be penalised.
The Seagulls were made to withstand late pressure with almost six minutes of injury time but stood strong to make it two league wins from two in 2013.