Brighton and Hove Albion 1 Huddersfield Town 0: Andone torments Terriers again
Florin Andone was the hero against Huddersfield Town for the second time this season as Brighton and Hove Albion eased their relegation fears with a 1-0 home win on Saturday.
On target in a 2-1 victory when these teams met in December, substitute Andone came to the Seagulls' rescue again as he nodded in Anthony Knockaert's cross 11 minutes from time.
The hosts had long been frustrated in their attempts to find a way through but a sustained period of pressure after a lacklustre first half eventually broke Huddersfield's resistance, leaving Jan Siewert's side 13 points adrift of safety.
In contrast, Chris Hughton's men are now five points clear of 18th-placed Cardiff City, having celebrated a much-needed first league win of 2019.
The urgency associated with the occasion initially seemed lost on the players as a timid opening 30 minutes passed without incident.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh eventually offered a rare flash of first-half intent when he cut in from the left and dipped an excellent effort against the crossbar.
Glenn Murray looked certain to capitalise on Yves Bissouma's intelligent pass eight minutes after the interval, only for Juninho Bacuna to make an excellent last-ditch block.
Jahanbakhsh next side-footed a promising opportunity straight at Jonas Lossl, who did well to parry a powerful Andone strike 20 minutes from time.
But the breakthrough eventually came as the clock counted down towards a stalemate, with Andone, on in place of Murray, glancing a header beyond goalkeeper Lossl from Knockaert's pinpoint left-sided delivery.
What does it mean? Seagulls out of trouble
This match was billed as a big opportunity for Brighton to relieve the mounting tension and, after pushing and probing for long periods of the second half, they eventually succeeded in banking a precious three points.
Hughton had admitted concern over his side's poor run of form prior to the match but, with a game in hand on Cardiff up his sleeve, must now be able to look optimistically towards a comparatively kind run of fixtures.
Knockaert makes timely contribution
A match largely devoid of goalmouth action called for a moment of creative inspiration and Knockaert was just the man to provide it for the winner.
Having received Jose Izquierdo's pass on the left, he looked up and perfectly picked out Andone's clever run.
Murray misses the mark
Andone's intervention off the bench served to highlight just how match team-mate Murray struggled across his 57-minute spell on the pitch.
The 35-year-old has scored just two Premier League goals since December – both against Fulham – and very much looked a man short on confidence, with his failure to test Lossl early in the second half almost costing Brighton.
Brighton will eye another positive result when they visit Crystal Palace next Saturday as Huddersfield look to return to winning ways at home to Bournemouth.