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Brighton knock Derby County off Championship summit with 2-0 at the Amex Stadium
Promotion-chasing Derby suffered back-to-back league defeats for the first time this season as second half goals from Dale Stephens and Kazenga LuaLua gave Brighton a 2-0 victory.
The injury-hit Rams - now ousted at the top by Middlesbrough - should have been ahead before Stephens struck on 70 minutes and LuaLua gave the Seagulls their fourth win in the last five home games seven minutes later.
Derby came close to breaking the deadlock in only the fifth minute when a 20-yard shot from Jeff Hendrick was pushed onto the bar by keeper David Stockdale.
Scottish striker Johnny Russell, drafted in to lead the attack with key front men Chris Martin and Darren Bent both out with hamstring injuries, set up the chance as Steve McClaren's men quickly got out of the blocks.
Hendrick had a shot from outside the box blocked before central defender Lewis Dunk showed alertness to put behind a dangerous cross by Craig Forsyth.
The Seagulls threatened for the first time when former Bristol City striker Sam Baldock's goal-bound volley drew a good save out of keeper Lee Grant.
Albion's Spanish defender Inigo Calderon should have hit the target mid-way through the half, wastefully putting the ball wide after former Celtic midfielder Beram Kayal found him with a short pass.
Derby midfielder Tom Ince failed to get round keeper Stockdale after Russell provided an opportunity inside the area.
Brighton were forced into making a change just before the break when Kazenga LuaLua was introduced for the injured Baldock.
Albion were fortunate to escape in stoppage when, from a corner by Ince, Stockdale parried a goal-bound header from skipper Richard Keogh.
Russell was unable to supply the finishing touch at the far post shortly after the break after Jamie Ward put a ball across the six-yard box.
The Rams continued to turn the screw and Ward shot over following a strong run before keeper Stockdale turned a fierce drive from Hendrick over the bar.
Brighton, rarely threatening, put some pressure on the Derby goal when Forsyth cleared for a corner from LuaLua after keeper Grant claimed a cross by Kayal.
Substitute Stephens struck within three minutes of replacing Joao to give Brighton the lead after 70 minutes.
The former Charlton midfielder struck from close range when Calderon mis-kicked following a long throw by Bruno.
Substitute Jesse Lingard blazed a great chance over to equalise for Derby before LuaLua sealed Albion's win on 77 minutes with a low shot past Grant having been set up by O'Grady.
Todays Team News
The Football League Championship is the highest division of The Football League and second-highest division overall in the English football league system after the Premier League. The Championship primary motto is Real football, real fans. The Football League Championship was introduced for the 2004–05 season, having been previously known as the Football League First Division.Brighton knock Derby County off Championship summit with 2-0 at the Amex Stadium
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