West Brom 2 Brighton 0 - Report and pictures
The winless run in the Premier League is over. Alan Pardew has his first league victory as Baggies boss. And crucially, hope has been restored.
Two set-piece goals from Jonny Evans and Craig Dawson at the start of each half were enough to secure a much-needed 2-0 win over Albion's namesakes from the south coast.
With the help of some old tried and trusted methods, the drought is over. But this was no smash and grab set-piece victory that Tony Pulis used to thrive on.
This was a hungry, determined performance from a team buoyed by victory in the FA Cup last weekend who knew that this was a pivotal moment in their season.
They were helped by some poor finishing from the Seagulls, but in truth, they were worth the victory.
By the end of the match, the home fans, who had each been given clappers for the game, were singing 'Alan Pardew's Barmy Army'.
This may be the new manager's first league win at his ninth attempt, but the supporters have taken to him.
Five minutes before full-time he was whipping up the crowd, urging them to see the team over the line. They duly obliged.
The match got off to the perfect start for the Baggies, who found themselves ahead early on.
Evans, Dawson, and Matt Phillips all returned to the side after missing last weekend's FA Cup third round clash with Exeter City, while left-back Kieran Gibbs shook off his muscle strain to start.
Paris Saint-Germain loanee Grzegorz Krychowiak started his third game in a row and partnered Gareth Barry in central midfield, although there was no place in the squad for £15m winger Oliver Burke or 19-year-old Sam Field.
Every home fan found a new cardboard clapper on their seat when they arrived, and many embraced their new atmosphere-creating instrument at the start of the match.
Twinkling around the stadium like a swarm of distressed butterflies, they provided the backdrop to an energetic start on the pitch.
Joze Izquierdo cut inside Craig Dawson and bent a shot a foot wide of Ben Foster's far post two minutes in, but then the Baggies went up the other end and took the lead.
Before the match, Alan Pardew said he had changed their set-piece routines this week and it worked immediately.
Matt Phillips drilled his corner into the near post, where Jay Rodriguez flicked it on towards the far post, allowing Evans to steal around the back and nod home unmarked.
As the home crowd waved their clappers in celebration, Evans wheeled away to the East Stand and punched the air.
Five minutes later the same corner routine nearly worked again, when Phillips's drilled effort found Craig Dawson but his stooped header flashed just wide.
Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk have been imperious at the back for Brighton this season, but this tactic was negating their height and the Seagulls were struggling to deal with it.
In open play, the Baggies were hungry, pressing high off the ball and zipping it around when they did have it.
Ben Foster was forced to claim a deep cross with Glenn Murray lurking and a well-timed Krychowiak tackle stopped Pascal Gross from bearing down on goal, but overall, it was the hosts who threatened most.
Jay Rodriguez waltzed around Gaetan Bong before getting crowded out in the box, Phillips tried his luck from 35 yards after a swift breakaway, and Dawson had a shot from the edge of the area blocked after a neat dummy from Barry.
Pardew's men were having particular joy down the right flank, where Izquierdo was neglecting his defensive duties and leaving Bong exposed.
The Colombian winger did look dangerous going forward though, and nearly jinked his way through the Baggies defence before he was stopped by referee Martin Atkinson for fouling Barry.
Glenn Murray volleyed a dipping effort just over Foster's bar soon after as the Seagulls settled into proceedings.
But the Brighton striker, who worked under Pardew at Crystal Palace, was lucky not to give away a penalty on the half-hour mark when he raised an arm to block a Phillips shot from the edge of the area.
The Hawthorns shouted 'handball!' in unison but referee Martin Atkinson waved away the appeals, indicating Murray had been protecting his face.
It was an open first half with both teams threatening. Dawson was forced into a last-ditch block to deny Dunk before going up the other end and nearly scoring himself.
Slipped through by Rondon, the right-back's first touch was just a tad too heavy, allowing keeper Mat Ryan to rush out and smother.
Chris Hughton brought Solly March on for Izquierdo at half-time in an effort to shore up his left flank, but Dawson fashioned an early chance from that wing when he pulled the ball back to Rodriguez, whose shot from inside the six-yard box was well blocked by Dunk.
Dunk was also on hand eight minutes later to cut out Rondon's cross at the near post destined for Brunt, but there was nothing he, or Brighton's defence, could do about Albion's second goal.
Dawson had been threatening to score alll game, and 54 minutes in he eventually did, powering a downwards header into the ground and up over Anthony Knockaert on the line from another drilled corner.
Hughton sent on striker Sam Baldock in an effort to get back into the game but it was Murray who threatened most all game, and he fashioned a great chance for Knockaert after drawing Foster out of goal but the winger blazed over when he should have done better.
The Baggies weren't sitting back though. Rondon hit the side netting after a glorious through-ball from Barry and Rodriguez had a header at the back post blocked.
Inevitably though, the Brighton onslaught came. But Albion's backline stood firm, and their monumental effort was epitomised by Dawson and Hegazi cleaning each other out by going for the same ball.
It was a nasty clash of heads that eventually forced Dawson off, even though he tried to initially continue.
Pardew also brought Jake Livermore on for Rodriguez with just over 10 minutes to go, and then had to put Gareth McAuley on for the limping Evans.
Rondon came close to adding a third twice in injury time, before Foster flew out of his goal to claim a dangerous Bruno cross. By then, the fans knew.
Albion remain in 19th but they had to win today to keep in touch with those above them.
The fact they did, while keeping their fifth clean sheet of Pardew's reign, suggests there is still plenty of hope left for survival.
04 GOAL BAGGIES - Phillips drills a corner into the near post that Rodriguez flicks on to the far post, where Evans has stolen in to nod home unmarked.
30 Baggies have a big shout for a penalty turned down when Murray lifts his arm to block Phillips's shot.
55 GOAL BAGGIES - Brunt's drilled corner finds Dawson at the back post and the right-back's header bounces into the ground and over Knockaert on the line.
Man of the match
Craig Dawson - Brilliant defensively but also got forward and scored Albion's second. Tried to stay on despite taking a nasty bang to the head.
Position in the table
19th, with 19pts from 23 games.
Albion (4-4-2): Foster, Dawson (Nyom 82), Hegazi, Evans (c) (McAUley 84), Gibbs, Phillips, Barry, Krychowiak, Brunt, Rodriguez (Livermore 78), Rondon. Unused subs: Myhill, Yacob, McClean, Robson-Kanu.
Brighton (4-2-3-1): Ryan, Bruno, Dunk, Duffy, Bong, Propper (Kayal 76), Stephens, Knockaert, Gross, Izquierdo (March 45), Murray. Unused subs: Krul, Baldock, Hemed, Goldson, Schelotto.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (Leeds)
Attendance: 25,240 (Away 2,731)