The Amex may prove to have been the stage for a pub quiz question of the future after the victory over Derby County: which record FA Cup winner scored his first goal in the competition on his farewell appearance in it?
Ashley Cole’s late consolation was the starting point for many reports, but Sam Dean of the Sunday Telegraph rightly concentrated on the winners rather than the losers.
“For all the festering fear of losing their place in the top flight, Brighton can at least take some optimism from an FA Cup run that may well turn into a genuine adventure,” he wrote.
“Brighton were largely dominant here, showing few signs of the inhibitions that have dogged their league form until a worryingly nervy final few minutes.
“Derby County are a good side under Frank Lampard, defeating two Premier League opponents already this season, but they waited too long to put Brighton under any sustained pressure after a lifeless opening hour at the Amex.
“Ashley Cole’s header, his first goal for the club since joining in January and his first-ever strike in the FA Cup, gave Derby hope in the closing moments, when the strains of the past few weeks finally showed for Brighton.
“It was too late, though, and few could claim that Brighton were not deserving of the victory, despite the wobble that followed Cole’s intervention.”
Mark Irwin of The Sun on Sunday was one of very few writers to mention Albion players ahead of the former England left back.
“Anthony Knockaert and Jurgen Locadia stepped out of the shadows to fire Brighton into the FA Cup quarter-finals,” he wrote.
“Chris Hughton’s team might be in Premier League freefall but they are proving to be an unstoppable force in football’s oldest competition.
“The Seagulls boss made eight changes to the team beaten in their last game against Burnley but they still had too much for the Championship promotion hopefuls.
“Derby had already seen off Manchester United in the Carabao Cup and Southampton in the FA Cup this season.
“But they rarely troubled a Brighton team which have been dragged into a relegation dogfight after taking only six points from their previous 11 league games.
“And even Ashley Cole’s late header couldn't knock the Seagulls out of their stride.”
Cole’s goal, though, was a collector’s item, as Kieran Gill pointed out in the Mail on Sunday.
“Not even a first-ever goal in the competition from Mr FA Cup himself could see Frank Lampard's Derby County through to their first quarter-finals since 1999,” he said.
“Ashley Cole lifted this trophy a record seven times in his career but had never scored. The 38-year-old righted that wrong when he set up a grandstand finish with nine minutes remaining.
“A fine finish it was from Cole, too, but the equaliser failed to follow. Brighton held on, ensuring they would not become the first Premier League scalp taken in this weekend of FA Cup action.
“Anyone attempting to count the amount of times Lampard, with hands in pockets, turned and scuffed the turf in frustration would need to take socks and shoes off.
“This was one of those games for the 40-year-old coach. Not much went Derby's way at the Amex Stadium, and Lampard believed it was their own doing.
“'To come to a Premier League team and give them time on the ball is a cardinal sin,' he said. 'You're waiting for them to score. In the first half we were slow, there was a lack of urgency.
“'We weren't at the races. Whether it was fear or respect, whatever way around it was, it is not enough to come here and get a result. The message was clear before - come here confident.'
“On his half-time team talk, he said: 'Two-and-a-half thousand Derby fans travelled down. Will we go out with a whimper? Or are we going to have a go? I was very clear on that.'
Hughton added ahead of the draw on Monday evening: 'I'm delighted to go through for the team, for the club. What everybody in my position would be after is a home tie'.”
Ian Winrow praised Yves Bissouma and Knockaert in The Independent.
“Bissouma would catch the eye as the games progressed but initially it was Knockaert who was the difference as the home side asserted their superiority.
“The French winger has struggled to make an impact in the two seasons since he was named Championship player of the year during Brighton’s promotion winning campaign.
“This term he has started less than half Albion’s league games but took full advantage of the opportunity to press his claims to feature more prominently, switching flanks to cause problems all across the Derby backline.
“A Knockaert free-kick 13 minutes into the game drew a save from Kelle Roos then, with chances proving hard to come by at either end, the winger was again denied by the Derby goalkeeper who dived full length to push away a curling shot from the edge of the area.
“Derby have lost just once since the turn of the year but their failure to convert a number of draws into wins has left them on the fringe of play-off places.
“Against more senior opponents they struggled to offer a meaningful threat in the first half with a Martyn Waghorn shot on the turn the only time the visitors tested David Button before the break.
“By then they had fallen behind to Brighton’s well worked opening goal that was created by BIssouma and finished emphatically by Knockaert.
“Bruno, the Albion right-back, started the move down the right in the 33rd minute, moving the ball on to Bissouma who worked his way to the byline after exchanging passes with Ali Jahanbahksh before pulling the ball back to Knockaert who placed the ball inside the post with an excellent first time shot.
Paul Doyle of The Observer also enjoyed Albion’s first-half double. He wrote:
“Bissouma, whose clever bursts from midfield were one of the highlights of the home team’s play, created the first by playing a slinky one-two with Alireza Jahanbakhsh before picking out Knockaert with a low pass from the right.
“Knockaert gave the move the finish it deserved, guiding a side-footed shot into the bottom corner from 12 yards.
“Derby barely whimpered in response. Martyn Waghorn was presented with a shooting chance following a poor defensive header by Shane Duffy after a free-kick but the striker failed to catch the dropping ball properly, offering David Button an easy save from eight yards.
“Then Brighton doubled their lead with sweet finesse. Bissouma showed nimble feet to trick his way past Tom Huddlestone at the edge of the area and then aimed a delicate curling shot past the goalkeeper. It bounced out off the inside of the post but Locadia reacted sharply to prod in the rebound from close range.
“Derby came back from two goals down to get past Southampton in the previous round but the dullness of their play here made such a transformation seem more unlikely.
“Everything was going rather swimmingly for the south-coast side until Cole stepped forward to make his latest impact on the FA Cup in the 81st minute.
“Following a move begun by a smart through-ball from Huddlestone, the still-lithe veteran showed fresh reflexes and expert technique to guide a header into the net from 12 yards after Dan Burn sent a rash clearance his way. Derby cranked up the pressure in a frantic finale but it was too little, too late.”
Matthew Henry of the BBC website agreed that Albion were well worth their place in the sixth round.
“Brighton's dominant performance - for 80 minutes at least - came despite their poor Premier League form and manager Chris Hughton having to name a depleted starting line-up.
“Hughton made eight changes, with top scorer Glenn Murray and key defender Lewis Dunk both out with knocks and midfielder Davy Propper ill.
“An FA Cup quarter-final will give a welcome distraction to any league struggles but there were worrying scenes when Locadia limped off with an apparent ankle injury after going down off the ball in the second half."