Brighton 1 Burnley 0
Burnley’s fading play-off hopes took a further knock but not before they gave top-six bound Brighton a scare on the south coast.
A second successive blank in front of goal completed an unproductive week against two of the sides the Clarets had hoped to catch in the play-off race.
And with a winless run now extended to five games, Sean Dyche’s side is starting to find itself marooned in mid-table.
But once again the fine margin between success and failure was perfectly mirrored against a Brighton side which looks a good bet to figure in the promotion shake-up.
The high-flying Seagulls were the better side before the break and could have added to what turned out to be David Lopez’s match-winner.
But the Clarets then turned the tide in the second half and as they forced Albion onto the back foot with an impressive performance which could easily have earned them a deserved reward.
Instead, they must now look to win their re-arranged game against Huddersfield in mid-week to restore some momentum and take solace from a number of decent contributions, including that of rookie defender Kevin Long who was asked tougher questions than against shot-shy Middlesbrough mid-week and answered most of them in commanding style.
Jason Shackell goes close to equalising
With Brighton kicking off on the back of a mid-week win at run-away league leaders Cardiff City, confidence was never going to be in short supply at a vibrant Amex Stadium where Gus Poyet’s side had tasted defeat only three times in the Championship this season.
And with a team full of play-makers they were always likely to provide the Clarets with a test of technique and temperament.
It was a test Burnley passed early on as they passed the ball well themselves and forced the first save of the afternoon when Tomasz Kuszczak needed to extend himself to tip over an intended cross from Junior Stanislas.
Keith Treacy, starting only his second Championship game of the season in a positive move from Dyche, then cut in front the right wing – having switched flanks with Stanislas – to curl an effort just wide.
But Brighton were having some success themselves when they got the ball out wide, particularly down the left side where Wayne Bridge and Andrea Orlandi formed a dangerous combination when invariably supplied by Vicente Rodriguez.
And it was the avenue that led to the opening goal with 20 minutes gone, Bridge crossing for Orlandi to flick on to Lopez who clinically steered a left-foot volley across Lee Grant and into the far corner.
Keith Treacy made an impressive return
Brighton might have been expected to kick on from there but instead it was the Clarets who reacted best with an impressive spell which almost brought them an equaliser.
As against Boro, Burnley’s initial set-pieces were poorly delivered with the absence of the injured Ross Wallace again felt.
But when Treacy was handed the task of taking the corners suddenly the visitors looked a threat and twice Jason Shackell went closed to scoring his first goal for the Clarets.
Gary Dicker cleared his initial header off the line but that was a straight-forward stop compared with the save Kuszczak - who previously played under Dyche at Watford - made plunging to his left to keep out another header from the Clarets’ skipper by the foot of the post.
If that was a wake-up call to the Seagulls it certainly worked and five minutes before half-time they should have doubled their lead.
Orlandi was causing havoc down Burnley’s right-hand side and when the Spaniard got away again, not even Leonardo Ulloa will know how he failed to convert his low cross from inside the six-yard box when a second goal would have left the Clarets with a major hill to climb.
Stanislas replied with a long-range effort that was gathered by Kuszcak but that proved to the winger’s final contribution as he was replaced by Danny Ings at the start of the second half.
And the benefit was immediate as Treacy delivered two high quality crosses from his more natural left-sided position and Ings, as well as helping out the over-worked Kieran Trippier, produced a cross from the right which saw Charlie Austin test Kuszcak with a downward header.
Charlie Austin and Dean Marney threatened second-half equalisers
That set the tone as the Clarets forced the pace and when Danny Lafferty joined the attack to deliver another accurate cross, Chris McCann missed a decent chance after the ball by-passed Austin and reached him at the corner of the six-yard box for an effort he scooped over the top.
Sensing the shift of momentum, Poyet made a double change with Craig Mackail-Smith and Ashley Barnes forming a new-look attack with 25 minutes to go.
But again it was Burnley who went closest to scoring as an excellent run from Ings ended with Dean Marney stabbing an effort just wide.
And with the anxiety levels growing around the Amex, the Clarets began to camp in the Seagulls’ half.
Ings and Austin had sights of goal without pulling the trigger and then with just a couple of minutes to go Austin peeled off to meet another Ings’ cross with a header which drifted just wide as Brighton hung on to maintain their push towards the top.
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Lafferty, Long, Shackell, Stock (Vokes 79), Marney (Bartley 71), McCann, Austin, Stanislas (Ings ht), Treacy. Subs: Paterson, Edgar, O’Neill, Jensen.
Booked: Ings 57, McCann 82, Shackell 90
Brighton: Kuszcak, Bruno, Upson, El Abd, Bridge, Hammond, Dicker, Lopez, Orlandi (Barnes 64), Ulloa (Mackail-Smith 64), Vicente (Greer 87). Subs: Calderon, Forster-Caskey, Lua Lua, Ankergren.
Booked: Vicente 77
Referee: Graham Scott
Attendance: 25,836 (Burnley 749)