Queens Park Rangers beaten by Brighton
PUBLISHED: 21:54 07 April 2017 | UPDATED: 21:54 07 April 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
Queens Park Rangers 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 2
Queens Park Rangers fell to a third successive defeat as Brighton climbed back to the top of the Sky Bet Championship at Loftus Road.
Second-half strikes from Glenn Murray and Sebastian Pocognoli ended a four-match winning streak at home for Rangers and leave the Seagulls needing three more victories to guarantee a place in the Premier League.
Despite a goal from Matt Smith and a late QPR rally, Brighton leapfrogged Newcastle again - for a few hours at least - in what is shaping up to be a battle to the wire for the title.
Chris Hughton’s side endured a frustrating first half, putting the ball in the net twice only for both efforts to be ruled out for offside.
However, they showed their undoubted class after the break to move a step closer to a return to the top flight after 34 years.
Murray had got in behind the home defence to turn in Anthony Knockaert’s clever pass, and Tomer Hemed then diverted Pocognoli’s shot into the net, but both goals were rightly disallowed.
However, QPR - who handed a first start to former Manchester United starlet Ravel Morrison following his January loan switch from Lazio back to west London - also had their first-half chances.
They had a strong claim for a penalty when James Perch’s header bounced up and hit Lewis Dunk on the arm, but referee Simon Hooper thought otherwise.
Conor Washington burst from his own half only to fire just over and Perch saw a goalbound effort blocked by Seagulls captain Bruno, who did not know much about it.
But Brighton cranked up the pressure after the interval and the goal they had been threatening arrived in the 58th minute, courtesy of Murray, who played a clever one-two with Hemed and raced through on goal.
Goalkeeper Alex Smithies came out to meet the striker, but Murray kept his cool to lash home his 21st Championship goal of the season in front of 3,000 ecstatic travelling fans.
Five minutes later Murray was tripped on the edge of the area and West Brom loanee Pocognoli curled a delightful free-kick in off the underside of the crossbar.
The hosts pulled a goal back in the 74th minute when Smith, who had been denied by Seagulls keeper David Stockdale, headed in the resulting corner.
In a frantic finale Stockdale had to be on his toes to prevent a Steve Sidwell own goal as Brighton held out to move two points ahead of Newcastle and, crucially, 12 points clear of third-placed Huddersfield.