Albion boss Chris Hughton was left frustrated after Queens Park Rangers hit back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Loftus Road last night.
Goals from Dale Stephens and Rajiv van La Parra gave the Seagulls a 2-0 lead but a double from Charlie Austin, the second after Brighton defender Lewis Dunk was sent off, ensured the points were shared.
Hughton said: “When you’re 2-0 up you want to get the three points. It was tough at the end with the sending off, but the first goal changed things.
“They have a lot of pace and power in the team and play direct to the front. We knew they would cause us problems and it was about whether we could defend that well enough for 90, 97 minutes.
“The players showed the character they have shown all season and they needed that today, because we might’ve gone under in that last bit, and I have got to give our lads credit.
“At that stage, they were going for it with four players upfront and they played a lot of deliveries in with pace. So in the end, we held out, but very much deserved it.”
All four goals came in an action-packed second half, with Stephens’ overhead-kick and van La Parra’s long-range strike having seemingly put Albion in command.
Austin pulled a goal back and Brighton were reduced to ten men on 84 minutes when Dunk was shown a second yellow card following a challenge on Alejandro Faurlin, whose corner three minutes later was headed in for the equaliser - Austin’s tenth goal of the season.
The result meant Brighton were replaced by Middlesbrough at the top of the table on goal difference.
Rangers, in their second match under new manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, dominated the first half but were two down within ten minutes of the restart.
After Dunk climbed above Gabriele Angella at the far post to head van La Parra’s 52nd-minute corner back towards the six-yard box, Stephens nudged Sandro out of the way and showed great improvisation to hook the ball past Rob Green.
Rangers protested that Sandro had been fouled and worse followed for them three minutes later, when goalkeeper Rob Green was unable to react quickly enough when van La Parra’s 35-yard shot took a deflection off Grant Hall, allowing the ball to squirm past him and into the net.
QPR hit back on 65 minutes, with their first goal under Hasselbaink. Matt Phillips delivered a low cross and Austin, in the starting line-up for the first time in more than a month following a calf injury, pounced on the loose ball following Gordon Greer’s challenge on him and smashed home.
And Austin’s equaliser salvaged a deserved point for Rangers, who in the first half were denied by Inigo Calderon’s goal-line clearance and might have had a penalty.
Austin’s 21st-minute cross towards Leroy Fer ran for Phillips and the Rangers winger’s shot beat goalkeeper David Stockdale, but Calderon rescued Albion.
Three minutes later, the R’s appealed in vain for a spot-kick when Austin combined nicely with Fer and saw his shot blocked by Greer’s stray arm.
Earlier, Austin had a low effort from near the edge of the box saved by Stockdale, who also tipped over a thunderous drive from Phillips.
Rangers were then forced into a defensive change when James Perch was helped off on the quarter-hour mark after falling awkwardly as he landed following an aerial challenge on Jamie Murphy.
Hasselbaink moved Nedum Onuoha to right-back and sent on Aneglla, and his team continued to press, with Hall heading Faurlin’s corner over shortly before Phillips so nearly opened the scoring.
In the end it was Stephens who broke the deadlock, and a second goal soon afterwards seemed to have put the game out of QPR’s reach.
They battled on, though, and Austin had a header and a low shot saved by Stockdale before eventually reducing the deficit.
Fer and Rangers substitute Sebastian Polter headed wide before Dunk’s dismissal, but Austin made no mistake when another chance came his way.
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