(Reuters) - Cardiff City earned a Premier League lifeline when they won 2-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday to close within two points of the south coast club and keep the relegation battle alive.
Cardiff had lost six of their previous seven games but, knowing that anything but a victory would probably end their survival hopes after one season in the top flight, overcame a strong Brighton start to play with growing confidence and fully deserved their victory.
They went ahead after 22 minutes when Nathaniel Mendez-Laing curled in a superb shot from the edge of the box after starting the move inside his own half and playing a neat 1-2 with Junior Hoilett.
Brighton, who made five changes to the team thrashed 5-0 at home by Bournemouth on Saturday, looked edgy and went 2-0 down when Sean Morrison headed in a Victor Camarasa free kick five minutes into the second half - his first goal of the season.
The home team responded as Glenn Murray sent a shot just over the bar but it was a rare chance until the striker sent a close-range header against the woodwork in stoppage time.
Cardiff were then able to celebrate a potentially priceless victory that takes them to 31 points from 34 games, now two behind Brighton on 33 from 33. Southampton are on 36 points from 33, Newcastle United on 38 from 34, while Fulham and Huddersfield Town are already relegated.
Among Brighton’s five remaining games they face Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and, on the last day of the season, Manchester City.
Cardiff have four to go, including at home to Liverpool this weekend and away to Manchester United to end the season.
Cardiff coach Neil Warnock has spent the last few weeks bemoaning the bad luck and what he considered bad refereeing that cost his team vital points so he was relieved to be celebrating a massive victory.
“We are alive and kicking,” he told Sky Sports News. “We’ve made it interesting for Sunday. It’s better than us being relegated so it’s going to be a good game on Sunday (against Liverpool).
“We’ve got four games left altogether and we’ve got to do the best we can.”
Brighton manager Chris Hughton said: “We are a young team in this division and there are going to be highs and lows and at this moment it’s a low, particularly after the last two defeats - both at home.
“But we have no choice but to get on with it, roll our sleeves up and show the quality we’ve got and get back to what we do best and look to get results.
“It’s still in our own hands and that’s the way we have to look at it.”
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Pritha Sarkar