For the Brighton fans who stayed here long after the final whistle, this was a night they will surely never forget. As the clock ticked off the fifth minute of stoppage time until Wilfried Zaha’s fifth goal in his last five matches against bitter rivals Crystal Palace, Neal Maupay’s deft finish to the final kick of the game somehow rescued a point for the Graham Potter team.
It wasn’t exactly what they deserved on a night when Zaha celebrated his 400th appearance with Palace by scoring from the spot just before halftime, but despite missing a chance to climb to the top of the Premier League, a You won’t mind Brighton in the least.
A dominating performance from Patrick Vieira’s side until then had seemed enough to win the points, but after Jordan Ayew turned down a golden opportunity to make it 2-0, there was a sense of inevitability about what happened next.
Vicente Guaita appeared to have done enough to run the clock after taking a free kick with less than 60 seconds to go, but the Palace goalkeeper’s punt was flown directly by Brighton substitute Jakub Moder to allow Maupay to apply. your auction. Zaha and Maupay then collided as tempers flared with the final whistle.
“It’s a wonderful feeling for us,” Potter said. “It’s not the easiest place to be perfect and we weren’t, but I felt like we deserved something from the game. The stamina among the players is fantastic. “
As Brighton aspired to top the table for the first time in its history, almost exactly 42 years had passed since Palace accomplished the same feat with Terry Venables.
The clashes between sides led by former England coach and his Brighton counterpart Alan Mullery in the late 1970s and early 1980s have given this unlikely derby a fighting advantage ever since and a police presence. on the streets around Selhurst Park was an indication of the antipathy he felt. it still endures strongly.
The absence of influential midfielder Yves Bissouma due to a knee injury forced Potter to change formation, while Vieira gave Odsonne Édouard his first start in place of Christian Benteke after the new forward’s heroics here against Tottenham at early this month.
After a great reception from local fans for Zaha, Palace got off to a positive start, but they found Brighton’s five-man defense difficult to break and only had a blocked effort from Conor Gallagher to demonstrate his dominance for the first 15 minutes. .
Having made 14 of those 400 appearances against Brighton, Vieira had urged Zaha to use his experience on this intense occasion to help guide his younger teammates. However, a slip by Tyrick Mitchell nearly allowed Leandro Trossard to open the scoring just after half an hour before Danny Welbeck squandered a huge opportunity after being played by Sanchez’s punt forward.
Replays suggested that Welbeck may have been prevented when he tried to lift the ball over Guaita, but was not penalized. But Palace’s effort finally paid off at halftime after a period of concerted pressure.
Trossard’s foul on Gallagher left referee Andre Marriner with no choice but to signal the point and Zaha threw the penalty at Sanchez before cupping his ears as he celebrated in front of Brighton fans on the visiting end.
Potter responded by switching to four in an attempt to limit Palace’s superiority in midfield. It seemed to have an immediate effect when Lewis Dunk forced Guaita to block a Marc Cucurella free kick.
The arrival of Benteke with 20 minutes to go was a sure sign that Vieira saw an opportunity to put pressure on the Brighton defense as they sought an equalizer.
The opportunity came with 14 minutes remaining, when Gallagher’s interception allowed Benteke to set up Jordan Ayew, only for him to extend his effort with an open goal and extend his sterile career to 35 games.
“Jordan losing that opportunity was important, but it is due to a lack of confidence and it is my responsibility to return him to what we know he can do,” Vieira said.
The true cost of his failure was revealed when Maupay pounced on Guaita’s mistake to deny the Palace manager a famous victory and leave Potter feeling enormously relieved.