Andrew Crofts made his long-awaited return to action after six months out as Brighton & Hove Albion were held to a 1-1 draw by neighbours Crawley Town at the Broadfield Stadium.
Crofts has been sidelined since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in January and has worked tirelessly with the club’s medical staff in order to put himself back on the pitch, and made his comeback in the 72nd minute, seconds before LuaLua’s thunderbolt equaliser.
Sami Hyypia’s outfit started brightly as Solly March weaved into the Crawley box within two minutes but his pull back was cut out, while Gordon Greer fired over.
Former Premier League striker Collins John drew a smart save from Albion’s young keeper Christian Walton before Albion were temporarily reduced to ten men as Gordon Greer was forced off the field due to a cut head.
The skipper’s absence was exploited by the hosts and Brighton’s 19-year-old keeper was once again on hand to palm away Gwion Edwards’ low drive, but from the resulting corner there was nothing Walton could do as John’s bullet header flew into the net.
Hyypia’s men were in the wars early on as Greer remained off the field, March then had to be withdrawn as Shamir Fenelon came on in his place while Inigo Calderon also suffered a cut to the head.
Albion were shortly restored to full strength but it was Town looking more of a threat with Walton producing another strong save to deny Izale McLeod before Edwards dragged a good chance wide.
Fenelon tried to restore parity before the break but his drive from distance was dealt with by Brian Jensen to preserve the Red Devils’ lead.
Jensen was swiftly called into action after the break to push down Jake Forster-Caskey’s log-range effort, and the Dane was quick to collect the loose ball ahead of the approaching Craig Mackail-Smith.
Town’s captain Josh Simpson drilled low and hard, but the skipper’s effort was met by comfortably by Walton, while his counterpart Jensen was equal to Kazenga LuaLua’s attempt up the other end.
However Jensen’s replacement Raphael Spiegel was helpless to stop LuaLua’s thunderous low free-kick as the Seagulls levelled matters just after Crofts’ introduction. It was Albion’s Congolese winger who came closest to a winner but his effort fizzed wide as the teams shared the spoils.