This fixture always has a habit of leaving things late. With Crystal Palace leading thanks to a brilliant strike from Conor Gallagher - his seventh Premier League goal of the season - a third successive win here for Patrick Vieira’s side seemed on the cards. Yet having rescued a point against the team they like to beat more than any other earlier in the season, this time it was an own goal from Joachim Andersen that came to Graham Potter’s salvation.
It’s now six matches since Brighton beat their bitter rivals, with Potter still yet to taste victory since taking over in May 2019. But this will have at least felt positive after they had fallen behind with 20 minutes to play.
This was Palace’s second away derby in the space of six days after their feisty victory over Millwall in the FA Cup on Saturday, with Vieira admitting this week that the last-minute equaliser Brighton scored at Selhurst Park in September to deny them three points was still “in our mind”.
He named six players aged 23 or younger in his starting line-up – the first Palace manager to select such a youthful side since caretaker Attilio Lombardo in March 1998 – as they attempted to end a sequence of seven matches without winning a Premier League match on a Friday.
After morale-boosting victories over Brentford and Everton, Brighton came into this match with their best points tally after 19 games of a top-flight season since 1982. They ended that campaign 13th in Division One, which remains the club’s highest-ever finish, and hopes are high on the south coast that this team can set a new standard under Potter.
He made seven changes from the side that edged past West Brom in the Cup, with Leandro Trossard paired with Neal Maupay in attack and a diamond formation in midfield with Adam Lallana at the base. These are always boisterous occasions and the decision to play the game on a Friday night certainly added some extra spice to proceedings. The sizeable contingent of away supporters behind Butland’s goal had a perfect view of the game’s first opening in the 10th minute after a dreadful mistake from Joel Ward presented the ball to Marc Cucurella.
Luckily for the Palace captain, his goalkeeper came to the rescue with an excellent save to deny Trossard that at least made partial amends for his error against Millwall at the weekend. Palace had surprisingly dominated the midfield during their encounter earlier in the season but it was a different story here, with Brighton pinning them in their own half through their full-backs, Cucurella and Joel Veltman.
Actual goalscoring opportunities remained elusive, however, until the intervention of VAR in the 35th minute. Will Hughes may consider himself unlucky to have been spotted but he did have his arm around Veltman’s neck as the ball came into the area and referee Robert Jones had no option but to award the penalty.
After a brief delay when a flare was thrown on to the pitch, the spot-kick from Pascal Gross lacked power and conviction and Butland was able to comfortably make the save. Yet the drama wasn’t over. From the resulting corner, Butland grasped Adam Webster’s header just before Maupay was able to knock the ball out of his hands and into the net, with VAR again ruling correctly that he had been fouled on the line.
After such a breathless ending to the first half, Palace kept their opponents waiting at the start of the second but almost fell behind three minutes in when Jakub Moder’s delightful flick from Gross’s cutback struck the top of the crossbar. Having spent most of the evening largely as a spectator, Robert Sánchez was then called into action to save from Webster after the defender’s attempted clearance from a Conor Gallagher cross was heading towards goal. It wasn’t long before Butland was back in the thick of things, once again denying Moder after he was played in by Alexis Mac Allister.
An injury to Lallana then forced Potter into a change of formation, with Tariq Lamptey’s introduction producing a positive reaction from the home fans.
Yet it was Gallagher who stunned them into silence with a fantastic team goal that started with a mazy dribble out of defence from Marc Guéhi and featured touches from half of the Palace team. Jeffrey Schlupp did brilliantly to keep the ball and then found the Chelsea loanee to slam home on the volley.
Brighton poured forward as they attempted to find a way back into the game and it eventually came when Maupay wriggled free down the left and Andersen could only divert the ball past Butland at the near post. A late Maupay header almost won it for Brighton late on but a draw just about felt like a fair result in the end.