Brighton secured Premier League football for the first time, and returned to the top flight for the first time in 34 years. After a tense win against a stubborn Wigan side, fans, players and chairman Tony Bloom sparked into wild celebrations, with promotion all but confirmed; it later was official when Huddersfield conceded late on against Derby to end up drawing.
Anthony Knockaert tried his luck from distance early on, but his tame effort from distance was comfortably gathered by Wigan goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard. Knockaert then cut inside from the left and drifted in a superb cross towards the onrushing Glenn Murray, but Jake Buxton got a crucial touch to head the ball behind. The Frenchman delivered another ball into the box that Haugaard couldn’t deal with, before Lewis Dunk saw his second attempt deflected wide. The Knockaert-Dunk combination was in action again, as the Albion centre-back rose highest in the box from an in-swinging set-piece only to see his header go over. Albion continued to cause Wigan problems from set-pieces, and this time Uwe Huenemeier met a Knockaert corner at the far post, but Haugaard collected the ball. Albion broke the deadlock in the 37th minute courtesy of Murray, who fired home his 22nd goal of the season from the edge of the box after being teed up by Tomer Hemed. The club’s leading marksman thought he doubled Albion’s advantage five minutes later when he headed home, but the ball had gone out of play from the original corner. Albion had a golden chance to double their advantage shortly after the re-start after Haugaard dropped the ball but both Hemed and Knockaert saw their subsequent shots blocked on the line. Haugaard redeemed himself moments later with a fine save to keep out Knockaert’s free-kick from nestling into the far corner. The Seagulls did get the second goal in the 65th minute, as some brilliant skill from Knockaert teed up Solly March, who took a touch and fired a right-footed strike through Haugaard’s legs. Substitute Jamie Murphy raced forward down the left-hand side to set up Murray in a central position, but Stephen Warnock deflected his effort over the target. Albion had their second effort of the afternoon ruled out for offside when Hemed played Knockaert through on goal, although it looked a very close call. The Seagulls continued their dominance as Murray flashed a ball across the face of goal and Knockaert narrowly failed to make a connection at the far post. Just as Albion looked to be cruising toward the finishing line, Nick Powell headed home Jamie Hanson’s perfectly-weighted cross to make it 2-1 five minutes from time. Albion sub Chuba Akpom came close to adding a third late on, but his angled attempt hit the side netting. But the game finished 2-1 with Albion knowing that their place in the Premier League was all but secured – sparking jubilant scenes at the Amex which will last a lifetime, only for them to be officially promoted a couple hours later, when Derby scored a late equaliser against Huddersfield.
Stockdale (7); Was on course for a 21st clean sheet, but denied by Powell late on but won’t mind that too much, after the games he has kept them in this season.
Bruno (7); Was sound defensively and linked up well with Knockaert throughout the game.
Hunemeier (7); Another good contribution to the team with some rock solid defending; only blemish was that Powell got inside of him for his goal.
Dunk (7); Been solid throughout the season, and another strong performance saw them over the line.
Bong (7); Not much to offer going forward, but a complete defensive performance.
Knockaert (8); Big part in what turned out to be the winning goal, and another useful contribution elsewhere.
Stephens (8); Does go unnoticed at times for what he does to the Brighton side, but starting to get the recognition he deserves; another top midfield performance.
Kayal (8); Brought back into the starting XI, and produced a sturdy game where not much went wrong for him defensively or offensively.
March (8); Scored what turned out to be the goal which sent up Brighton; a constant threat out wide, although his crosses weren’t his best.
Murray (8); Who else to settle the AMEX nerves? A cool composed finish for his 22nd goal of the season.
Hemed (7); Not the standout performace he had hoped for, but his precise pass to Murray helped them take the lead; did a lot of the graft up top
Murphy (6); Added an injection of pace down the wing.
Norwood (6); Sent on to try and keep possession and see the game out.
Akpom (6); Had a glorious chance to grab his first Albion goal, but had some good hold up play.
BHAFC - WAFC ; Murray (37), March (65); Powell (85);