NEWCASTLE claimed their first top-half scalp – as the Toon Express moved into overdrive.
The Magpies were miles from their recent best, outplayed for the majority by Brighton, but five wins in six is all that matters.
First-half goals from Ryan Fraser and Fabian Schar were just about enough to get Eddie Howe’s Magpies over the line.
They didn’t deserve the win, but playing poorly and holding on by the skin of your teeth is hardly the worst sign.
Unbeaten in eight, Newcastle are now a very healthy looking seven points clear of the drop with 12 games remaining.
It was their first ever Prem win against the Seagulls, at the 10th time of asking.
Howe was in the stands for the reverse fixture at the Amex having just been appointed.
The 1-1 draw left them 19th, five points off safety and 12 points behind Brighton in sixth.
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Now, with their stunning 2022 form showing no sign of stopping, Newcastle are just one place and five points behind them with a game in hand .
Brighton started the game in 10th but are down to 13th following their fourth straight loss.
Lewis Dunk made it 2-1 10 minutes into the second half but, despite bossing proceedings, failed to create enough clear-cut openings to claim a draw.
Fraser had a great chance to open the scoring for Toon after just 70 seconds but his volley from Joe Willock’s deep cross was straight at Robert Sanchez.
Brighton battered Toon for 11 mins from there, leaving St James’ Park subdued and on edge.
But the visitors failed to capitalise, and were shell-shocked when 2-0 down 15 minutes in.
Duffy butchered their best chance, missing a sitter from six yards with his head after an inch-perfect corner.
It was all Brighton but one slick counter, started by Chris Wood’s excellence, and they were behind.
The Kiwi is yet to score in seven games but was worth his weight in gold here, turning Lewis Dunk beautifully in his own half before releasing the rapid Jacob Murphy.
The winger gassed Marc Cucurella and chipped over Sanchez, only to hit the post.
But Fraser followed it all the way in, smashing it first time into the bottom corner to send the Geordie nation wild.
Two minutes later and it was total ecstasy, with the locals singing about Europe when Schar doubled their lead with a bullet header.
Fraser’s deep free-kick from the right was a beauty.
Schar’s clever movement to the front post got him in front of Danny Welbeck and the header powered through the despairing Sanchez.
In a rich vein of form, it was the first time Fraser – a Player of the Month nominee – has bagged a goal and assist in the same game since April 2019.
Brighton were stunned, but they should have been even further behind just before half-time – saved only by Murphy’s greediness.
Welbeck had earlier forced Martin Dubravka into a top save when one-on-one, before Murphy capitalised on Dunk’s comedy slip but went for glory instead of squaring to Fraser and fired straight at Sanchez.
Brighton were straight on top after the break, overrunning Newcastle in midfield, so there was little surprise when Dunk made it 2-1 55 minutes in.
Gross’ inswinging corner was as good as the marking was awful as the centre-back advanced unchecked before beating Dubravka to it and nodding home from four yards.
Potter summoned Solly March and top scorer Neal Maupay from the bench as the anxiety grew inside St James’ Park.
Howe responded by bringing on wing wizard Saint-Maximin for Murphy, but it didn’t stem the flow.
Dunk’s looping header sent Dubravka scrambling across his goal, while Newcastle wasted a couple of Saint-Maximin-inspired counters at the other end.
But as nervy as things got at the death, the Mags, by hook or by crook, stayed firm to leave themselves on the cusp of safety.
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