Brighton avenged their recent FA Cup penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester United by claiming a 1-0, goal by Alexis Mac Allister’

United, hoping to consolidate their place in the top four, were dealt the decisive blow when referee Andre Marriner was sent to the pitch-side monitor by VAR in the 99th minute of an otherwise goal-shy encounter, awarding a last-gasp spot-kick for a Luke Shaw handball.

Mac Allister, roared on by a raucous Amex Stadium crowd, held his nerve to thump the ball beyond the clutches of David De Gea, in turn moving Brighton above Tottenham and Aston Villa, while leaving United looking nervously over their shoulders.

“In the end if you can’t win because you cant finish, you don’t lose,” Erik Ten Hag lamented.

The Seagulls’ chances of catching United and scraping into the Champions League spots remain extremely slim, with Ten Hag’s side eight points better off, but a top-five finish is a distinct possibility going into a hectic final month of fixtures – Roberto De Zerbi’s side are four points adrift of Liverpool with a two-game advantage.

“I think there is a god of football,” the Brighton boss beamed. “We played a fantastic game.”

It was a stunning late twist – one that could play a significant role in who gets to enjoy the rigours of continental football next season, and in which competition.

“If you get beaten, you want to have revenge,” Ten Hag warned pre-match. So it proved.

A breathless opening, full of risk but no reward, saw Antony squander United’s most presentable chance after only two minutes, before Kaoru Mitoma followed suit by striking his opportunity against the face of De Gea.

The game ebbed and flowed, end-to-end at times, with Jason Steele called into action to deny low efforts from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, while De Gea was also kept honest by the trickiness of both Julio Enciso and Mitoma.

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Much the same as the meeting at Wembley 11 days prior, Brighton offered more consistent threat, but were failing to discover much cutting edge.

Emotions ran high throughout, fuelled by Brighton’s supposed FA Cup injustice and stoked by the fiery temperaments of both Bruno Fernandes and Antony – the latter one of eight names to be taken by referee Marriner.

With time running out, and Ten Hag’s side seemingly content with a point, the hosts continued to pour forward in search of a breakthrough. Substitute Solly March, who missed the decisive spot-kick in that semi-final defeat, lashed wide and De Gea superbly denied Moises Caicedo’s curler.

The contest grew increasingly feisty before Shaw inexplicably handled a corner, clawing the ball away from the head of Lewis Dunk and, after Marriner had belatedly pointed to the spot, De Gea flung himself one way while Mac Allister’s strike went the other.

“We deserved to win today and we deserved to win the semi-final,” De Zerbi concluded.

The triumph represents the Italian’s twelfth league win as Brighton manager in his 26th game in charge, equalling the number of victories managed by Graham Potter in the entirety of last season.

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