Crystal Palace 1 Brighton 1
A wonder strike from Wilfied Zaha 14 minutes from time rescued a point for the Eagles in a game where they were largely outplayed by their south coast rivals.
Brighton should have been home and hosed after a dominant display – bossing possession and peppering the Palace defence with shots.
But with Zaha, you always have a chance and when the Eagles finally found him in space on the left edge of the Albion penalty area, he dropped a shoulder to flummox Martin Montoya before crashing a perfect drive into the roof of the net.
It had been hard to see that one coming but it ensured that the timid home side came out of their shell. By the end, they looked the more likely winner.
A happy ending had not looked likely for Roy Hodgson in his 100th game in charge.
A spicy atmosphere befitting the tense history of the M23 derby and very personal jibes aimed at Lewis Dunk, the Seagulls captain served to ramp up the spikiness, But Palace did not harness it, rather they seemed in full-on retreat mode.
Before the break, there were very few incursions into the opposition half and the midfield looked so pedestrian and was frequently bypassed by nimble opponents.
It was only into the final 20 minutes that the Eagles finally managed a shot on target – a weak header from Christian Benteke.
Brighton were by far the more polished side – the tireless Aaron Mooy blasting into the side-netting from afar and Montoya almost opening the scoring after getting in behind the Palace defence after a fine defence-splitting ball from Davy Propper.
Dunk headed a corner at Vicente Guaita, and Propper sliced over after the visitors created another opening. Yves Bissouma was impressive and he also tested Guaita with a low shot, as did Pascal Gross during a one-sided half.
The ball was not sticking with the Eagles strikers. Zaha ran into traffic and Benteke was carded for putting an arm into Dunk’s face.
Without Joel Ward, Gary Cahill, Patrick van Aanholt, or the suspended Mamadou Sakho, the Eagles defence had a slightly unfamiliar look to it. Perhaps that was a reason for the team opting to sit back and absorb pressure rather than risk too much early on.
First half goals have been at a premium in Palace games recently and once again it was scoreless at the interval. Only one goal has been scored in the last seven Eagles matches during the first 45 minutes.
Hodgson’s men badly needed a lift and In a raid early in the second half, Benteke’s cross to the far post deceived keeper Mat Ryan and came back off the inside of the goal frame.
But Brighton broke the deadlock in the 54th minute, when Leandro Trossard’s volleyed cross from the right reached Neal Maupay, and the striker swiftly dispatched the ball into the roof of the net for a deserved lead.
Guaita got lucky soon after, when he spilled a hanging cross from Propper and just managed to halt Maupay’s close-range stab towards goal and the Eagles made the most of that reprieve.
Benteke finally forced Ryan into a couple of saves to ignite the home fans – a header and a low angled shot to the near post. From nowhere, Palace had a head of steam and they were getting the ball to Zaha.
And one superb sidestep of Montoya later, the winger had crashed in the equaliser.
After that, the mood in the stadium transformed, a win looked on the cards. Jordan Ayew fired just over after racing at defenders – Zaha inspiring a surge in belief in those around him.
Line up: Guaita – Kelly, Tomkins, Dann, Riedewald (McCarthy h/t) – Milivojevic, Kouyate (Meyer 67), McArthur – Ayew, Benteke, Zaha. Subs not used: Hennessey, Wickham, Camarasa, Woods, Mitchell.