Kaoru Mitoma scored a late winner for the second game running as Brighton edged past Bournemouth at Amex Stadium.
Mitoma, whose stoppage-time goal earned victory over Liverpool in the FA Cup last weekend, steered a header past Cherries goalkeeper Neto with three minutes remaining to spark joyous scenes among the home supporters.
Deniz Undav should have put the home side ahead in the first half, shooting against the post from close range after being denied twice in quick succession by blocks from Chris Mepham and Neto.
Jefferson Lerma shot wide from Jaidon Anthony’s cross as Bournemouth began to grow into the contest, but the hosts continued to carve out the better openings and twice went close through Danny Welbeck before half-time.
Billy Gilmour fired into the side-netting and Cherries debutant Antoine Semenyo had a shot blocked by the retreating Pervis Estupinan in a delicately poised second half, before Mitoma’s late header broke the visitors’ hearts.
Brighton manager Roberto de Zerbi left Moises Caicedo out of his starting line-up after the Ecuadorian midfielder’s attempts to force a move away from the club during the January transfer window.
The Seagulls climb to sixth, while Bournemouth are 19th after Everton’s victory over Arsenal in Saturday’s early game.
Mitoma the hero again
Caicedo’s omission meant Brighton started a league game without either the Ecuadorian or the suspended Alexis Mac Allister for only the second time this season, the other occasion being the 4-2 defeat at home to Arsenal on 31 December.
The Seagulls, who were also without in-form teenager Evan Ferguson through injury, looked set to draw a blank for the first time in a Premier League game since October until Mitoma’s late effort.
They controlled possession early on as Bournemouth set up camp inside their own half, but Undav somehow failed to put the hosts ahead with a quarter of an hour played.
The German striker, making only his second league start this season, intercepted Neto’s misplaced pass but after Mepham blocked his initial effort, Undav proceeded to fire straight at the Bournemouth goalkeeper before shooting against the post with his second follow-up shot.
Bournemouth improved as the half wore on but Welbeck headed straight at Neto from Solly March’s delivery, then steered a low Undav cross wide of the far post shortly before half-time.
Caicedo was given a rousing reception by the Brighton supporters when he entered the fray just before the hour mark, but it was the midfielder’s compatriot Estupinan who came to the home side’s rescue midway through the second period by throwing himself in front of Semenyo’s shot.
Brighton’s late pressure eventually told, though – Mitoma netting his sixth goal in nine appearances across all competitions to consolidate Brighton’s place in the top six.
Much-improved Bournemouth left empty handed
Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil handed debuts to January signings Semenyo and Hamed Traore, while Dango Ouattara made his second appearance following an eye-catching Premier League introduction against Nottingham Forest a fortnight ago.
The trio failed to make the scoresheet but their pace, direct running and energy could prove a major asset as Bournemouth look to avoid an immediate return to the Championship this season.
Semenyo’s tremendous solo run midway through the second period deserved a better outcome – but the former Bristol City player was thwarted by Estupinan’s block.
Lerma should have done better from Anthony’s cross in the first half, while O’Neil will feel his team should have been awarded at least one penalty prior to the interval.
Anthony’s protests were waved away after the winger was brought to ground by Tariq Lamptey, before Estupinan’s robust challenge on Ouattara also went unpunished.
Victories for fellow strugglers Everton, Wolves and Leicester compounded a miserable afternoon for the visitors, whose next five league games include encounters with Newcastle, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool.
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