It will be no consolation at all to Albion fans to know that almost every writer in the national newspapers believed that the result of Monday evening's match against Crystal Palace was a difficult one to explain.
Most of them are regulars at the Amex and have seen Graham Potter's men dominate with little reward on a number of previous occasions. But this, they agreed, was on another level.
Kieran Gill of the Daily Mail called it “the sucker punch of all sucker punches. Crystal Palace touched the ball twice in the opposition box and scored with both, crushing Brighton and their manager Graham Potter.
“This felt like textbook Brighton. They probe, they pass the ball nicely, they keep possession smartly, but they don't score. Once again, it bit them in the backside, and Palace won.
“Not everyone is a fan of the expected goals (xG) statistic, but those who believe in that data will tell you Potter's Brighton haven't been getting what their play deserves.
“They create chances but cannot finish them, and that is where their season has been falling short.”
Sam Dean of the Daily Telegraph agreed, writing that “in the long history of the strange rivalry between Crystal Palace and Brighton, there cannot have been many victories as brazen and undeserved as the one that Roy Hodgson's side smuggled here. Battered for 90 minutes, outclassed and outpassed, they somehow stole it at the death through a volley of genuine quality from Christian Benteke.
“It was a strike entirely out of keeping with the rest of Palace's performance, given their complete lack of ideas or invention without Wilfried Zaha, but it was a moment that triggered the most remarkable outpouring of celebratory joy. There will be few thefts as obvious as this across the whole season.
“Potter's side play a progressive game built around youngsters and careful squad construction. Palace, by contrast, go into this summer with uncertainty over the futures of a large chunk of their first-team squad, as well as the coaching staff.
“But good planning does not equal points, and for all the pretty football that Brighton played in the first half here, they soon found themselves a goal down to a Palace side that had delivered a classic counter-attacking punch. Jordan Ayew's right-wing cross found Mateta, who provided a gorgeous first-time finish, flicked in with his heel as he held off a defensive challenge. It was far from what Palace deserved, given Brighton's dominance of the game until that point, but it was hardly the first time that Potter's side have felt hard done by this season.
“If anything, their campaign has been defined by moments like this. No team can feel as convinced as Brighton that their performances have merited more points this campaign.”
Nick Ames of The Guardian rubbed it in. “Crystal Palace took three shots in this game and their utterly dominant rivals attempted 23. Roy Hodgson will not care one jot. Had his side held on for a draw then this would have been perceived as a completely joyless performance, ground out through necessity and illuminated in part by a first-half goal of admirable initiative from Jean-Philippe Mateta.
“Instead, it will be memorable for a quite stunning volley from the substitute Christian Benteke, who arrowed in unstoppably from beyond the far post with the seconds ticking down in injury time. Palace had barely attacked beyond Mateta's goal but Brighton were left to bitterly rue their failure to add to Joel Veltman's equaliser.”
Gary Jacob of The Times wrote that “Brighton changed to a back four to be more attacking and Dan Burn moved to left back after half-time. Danny Welbeck came on and scuffed a shot wide while trying to turn home a volley from Veltman and the same pair were involved in the equaliser. Gross scuffed an effort that fell to Welbeck, who had a sniff of goal and was denied by a well-timed tackle by Tyrick Mitchell. The ball broke loose for Veltman, who hammered it home at the near post for his first goal of the season.”
Tom Barclay of The Sun regarded Veltman's goal as a reward for a number of outstanding recent performances. “It continued the Dutchman's fine first season in English football,” he wrote.
“His £820,000 arrival in the summer did not come with a lot of fanfare, particularly as he was expected to be back-up to whizkids Tariq Lamptey and Ben White. Yet with Lamptey out injured since December, Veltman has deputised brilliantly, showing defensive nous and quality going forward to rightfully earn the status of 'bargain buy'.”
Ian Winrow concluded the dismal tale in the i. “Having drawn level, Brighton stepped up their efforts as they went in search of a second,” he wrote. “A frantic scramble saw Vicente Guaita save from Leandro Trossard before Welbeck and Alexis Mac Allister both had efforts blocks as Palace's defending grew more desperate.
“And it took a last-ditch challenge by Gary Cahill to deny another Welbeck effort after the forward had been set up by Maupay. Palace survived, though, and in the final seconds, Andros Townsend crossed for Benteke to finish.”
That goal led to some frantic rewriting in the press seats. But the Evening Standard accidentally left one word of their original intro in the report in their online edition, which began “Crystal Palace escaped Brighton with a 2-1 draw after Jean-Philippe Mateta and Christian Benteke both scored brilliant goals.”