Bournemouth eased some of the pressure on manager Eddie Howe with a crucial 3-1 win over Brighton.
The Cherries’ woeful recent form has raised questions about Howe’s future for the first time in his 11 years in the dugout.
But strikes from Harry Wilson and Callum Wilson, either side of a Pascal Gross own goal, secured a much-needed win to lift Bournemouth to 18th, level on points with West Ham and safety.
— AFC Bournemouth (@afcbournemouth) January 21, 2020
It was a victory which also illustrated that the players are still playing for the manager who guided the club all the way up from League Two.
A run of just four points from a possible 36 would have had most clubs reaching for the axe by now, but Howe still has credit in the bank.
It certainly appeared a good time to be playing Brighton, who have never won a Premier League match in January, or away from home on a Tuesday.
But Bournemouth looked every inch a side who had lost 10 of their previous 12 matches as they made a nervous start.
A more clinical team than Brighton would have taken advantage, but when Aaron Mooy’s reverse pass gave Neal Maupay a sight of goal, his angled shot was parried by Cherries goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale before Nathan Ake blocked the rebound.
Moments later Bournemouth created their first chance, Callum Wilson sending Dominic Solanke clear down the right.
Solanke’s low cross was behind his fellow striker but rolled across the box to the galloping Diego Rico, who drilled his shot into the side-netting.
Yet the mere sight of the net rippling, from a team without a goal in their previous four matches, seemed to energise Bournemouth and their fans, and the roof almost came off in the 36th minute when Harry Wilson found the net.
A poor headed clearance from Lewis Dunk fell to Solanke, who guided the ball into the path of Harry Wilson, the midfielder taking a touch before smashing it past Mathew Ryan with the aid of a deflection.
Howe remained motionless on the sidelines, but five minutes later his side were celebrating again as Gross, tussling on the goalline with Callum Wilson, turned Rico’s corner into his own net.
Brighton boss Graham Potter, whose side are a bit too close to the relegation zone for comfort themselves, had seen enough and made a triple substitution with Solly March, Aaron Connolly and Leandro Trossard sent on.
The visitors began to threaten, but Ramsdale came to the fore, bravely denying Dunk from point-blank range and beating away Maupay’s fierce drive and Mooy’s curler.
Instead Bournemouth finally had Howe punching the air in delight when Solanke set up Callum Wilson to round Ryan for the third.
Mooy pulled one back when his shot crashed in off the far post with 10 minutes left but, despite one or two jitters near the end, Howe’s men held on for a vital three points.