Crawley Town hosted Premier League Brighton and Hove Albion at the People's Pension Stadium, but fell to a 1-0 defeat after a Taylor Richards penalty was enough for the visitors to snatch a 1-0 win.
he visitors kicked off on in perfect football conditions and immediately found themselves in the Crawley Town box, with Jan Mlaker getting on the end of a cross from the left but steering it wide of the near post.
Just two minutes later, a loose ball was pounced on in the middle of the park by Panutche Camara before the ball found its way to Nathan Ferguson who cut in from the left and saw his shot blocked.
Bez Lubala looked to turn on the burners in the fifth minute as he searched for a way around left back George Cox, but he could only win a corner, which Brighton cleared.
Brighton struggled to get out of their half in the opening ten minutes, and the Crawley pressure nearly paid off when an advantage was played by the referee, allowing Lubala to get a left-footed shot away from the edge of the area, but the loan signing dragged it wide of Christian Walton's left-hand post.
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Mlaker played a sweeping cross-field ball to Viktor Gyokeres in the 13th minute but the winger's shot was tame and straight down the throat of goalkeeper Glenn Morris. Crawley then counter attacked and Camara saw his header bounce wide after a cross from the right.
Brighton had another chance when Hemed collected the ball, turned, and fed left back Cox, but his cross was claimed by Morris before either Brighton attacker in the box could pounce.
Crawley's defensive line sat very high as they looked to keep Brighton in their own half, and they had a great chance in the 18th minute when David Sesay burst past two Brighton players and won a free kick on the right-hand side of the Brighton penalty area. Ashley Nathaniel-George's cross was cleared as far as Dannie Bulman whose bouncing shot was spilled by Walton, but the alert Joe McNerney was offside and Brighton escaped.
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Haydon Roberts picked up the ball in a dangerous position for Brighton in the 20th minute, and he fed the ball right to Mlaker who had the chance to get a shot away, but he looked for a teammate and saw his cross evade everyone.
Max Sanders moved into central midfield for Brighton and started to get a hold on the ball, feeding a dangerous ball through to Aaron Connolly but the Irishman was crowded out. Immediately, up the other end, Crawley countered but Nathaniel-George's cross went all the way across the box and was cleared by Brighton.
In the 27th minute, Brighton won their first corner after an excellent long ball from Sanders found Mlaker, who fed Connolly but the striker was tackled. Cox took the corner for Brighton but it went over everybody's heads and out for a goal kick.
In the 32nd minute, Roberts, now at left back, played a huge ball to Connolly who gathered brilliantly before being caught by McNerney, as Brighton began to look after the ball a lot more carefully, showing their quality and giving a glimpse of Graham Potter's philosophy.
Tomer Hemed got away from Lewis Young in the 36th minute after a fantastic sweeping pass from Roberts, but he could only win a corner. Soufyan Ahannach kept the corner alive after it had initially missed everyone , and Tudor Baluta turned and fired a shot towards the bottom corner. However, Morris got down brilliantly to stop it and Sesay did his goalkeeper a favour by clearing.
The breakthrough nearly came for Crawley in the 40th minute, when a wicked cross from Sesay was headed goal-wards by Nathaniel-George, but Walton tipped over for a corner. From the resultant set piece, Panutche had a shot that was comfortable for the Brighton 'keeper.
On the cusp of half time, an excellent run from Baluta made space for Mlaker to put a searching cross in towards Hemed who, six yards out, was just unable to get on the end of the cross.
That was the last action of an end-to-end first half in which neither team created a truly clear-cut chance.
Half time: Crawley Town 0-0 Brighton and Hove Albion
The Reds got the second half underway, with Brighton also having made subs of their own, and immediately found themselves under pressure again but new signing Taylor Richard's shot was tame.
Brighton won an early corner after a lovely ball from Sanders found Gyokeres, and a wicked Cox ball was cleared. Another huge swicth was attemtped immedaitely after by Cox, searching for Mlaken, but he couldn't gether as the ball zipped off the surface.
It took until the 50th minute for Crawley to muster their first attack of the second half, as another whipped cross from Sesay was aimed towards Mason Bloomfield, but Baluta got their first and cleared.
A marauding run from right back Sesay created Crawley's next chance, as his ball found Nathaniel-George, who in turn laid it off to Lubala, but the left footed strike was straight at substitute 'keeper Robert Sanchez.
Brighton looked to control the ball in the early stages of the second half, but struggled to break down a resolute Crawley defence that had seen Josh Doherty introduced in the place of Lewis Young.
Doherty was right into the action as he conceded a corner after clearing away a looping deflected effort from Ahannach that was dropping in at the far post. Cox took the corner but once again put too much on it and conceded a throw in on the far side.
In the 63rd minute, a fierce strike from Crawley's Ferguson saw Sanchez scramble to his right, but the 20-yard strike fizzed wide.
Brighton's side looked very different by this point, and newly introduced Alex Cochrane was a constant threat down the left flank. He produced multiple crosses in rapid succession, all of which were dealt with by the Crawley centre backs.
Taylor Richards was repeatedly threatening for the Brighton attack, and he soon created a chance from the right. However, nobody could get on the end of his searching cross.
On 67 minutes, Ollie Palmer rolled Tudoe Baluta and drove at the Brighton goal. He sprayed the ball right to Nathaniel-George but his close-range shot was tipped wide by Sanchez to keep the scores level.
On 72 minutes, Kipras Kazukolovas replaced Haydon Roberts for Brighton, and he was in the thick of the action when Ollie Palmer attacked a free-kick from Josh Payne. The big striker was brought down but the referee waved away the Crawley appeals.
Brighton immediately counter attacked with Archie Davies down the right but once again the end product from Brighton wasn't there and the Crawley back line was able to snuff out the danger.
Just under ten deadlocked minutes later, Brighton won a free kick 30 yards out after Taylor Richards was brought down by Joe McNerney. Max Sanders took the free kick but it was blocked by an arm in the Crawley wall, resulting in a penalty for the Premier League visitors.
New signing Richards stepped up to take it and scored with a delightful chip straight down the middle past the despairing dive of substitute 'keeper Michael Luyambula giving Brighton a hard-fought lead.
Crawley remained patient in their approach play and gave everything to break down the dogged defence of Brighton, but nothing came off for the home side and Brighton held on for an incredibly hard-fought victory.
Full time: Crawley Town 0-1 Brighton and Hove Albion
Crawley Town: Morris (Luyambula, 77), Young (Doherty, 54), Dallison, McNerney, Sesay, Bulman (Payne, 72), Nathaniel-George (Grego-Cox, 72), Ferguson (Powell, 77), Camara, Lubala (Allarakhia, 77), Bloomfield (Palmer, 57).
Brighton and Hove Albion: Walton (Sanchez, 45), Sanders, Baluta, Clarke, Cox (Davies, 60), Mlaker (Longman, 81), Ahannach (Gwarhgis, 60), Roberts (Kazukolovas, 72), Gyokeres (Cochrane, 60), Hemed Richards, 45), Connolly (Spong, 45).
Referee: Gavin Ward