Brighton 1-2 Chelsea: Reece James sees red but Blues extend flying run to close in on sixth

 (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Chelsea made it four wins in a row as Cole Palmer scored again in a 2-1 victory over Brighton, despite a late scare after Reece James’ red card.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side have found some late-season form and it was a successful trip to the Amex Stadium, with Palmer heading the visitors in front before half-time and Christopher Nkunku doubling the advantage from a Malo Gusto cut-back in the second-half.

James came on to replace Gusto but saw his night come to a premature end, as he was sent off for kicking out at Joao Pedro having been fouled.

That set up a nervy finale heading into ten minutes of stoppage-time, particularly when Danny Welbeck got across his man to pull one back in the 98th-minute, but the Blues just about held firm in a chaotic finale.

The latest victory leaves Chelsea sixth in the Premier League, heading into the final day of the season. A point at home to Bournemouth on Sunday will be enough to ensure they finish there, with a Tottenham defeat needed against Sheffield United if the Blues are to snatch fifth place. Whether the Blues are in the Europa League next season could come down to the result of the FA Cup final between the two Manchester clubs.

Chelsea's last trip to Sussex was a humbling 4-1 defeat in October 2022 when former boss Graham Potter was cast as the pantomime villain on his first return to Brighton.

Ex-Seagulls pair Marc Cucurella and Moises Caicedo shared that role on this occasion in a fixture which has gained an extra edge due to the succession of staff and players swapping the south coast for Stamford Bridge. Left-back Cucurella attracted further ire from the stands by committing three early fouls without being booked and then winning a 16th-minute penalty.

Referee Michael Salisbury immediately pointed to the spot after the Spanish left-back went down in the 18-yard box but, to the delight of home fans, changed the decision on review as replays showed Brighton forward Facundo Buonanotte won the ball.

The Blues duly edged ahead 11 minutes before the break. Cucurella, who continued to be jeered, was directly involved, cutting the ball back from the left for the stooping Palmer to direct a fine looping header into the far corner.

Nicolas Jackson was penalised for a push on Tariq Lamptey after heading home Benoit Badiashile's inswinging cross from the right before directing Palmer's cross over from inside the six-yard box in the fourth of nine added minutes.

Yet the Blues were fortunate to escape minutes later when Pedro's powerful header cannoned off the crossbar following Lamptey's delivery.

An equaliser looked extremely likely after the break but Brighton were sucker-punched in the 64th minute. Madueke released Gusto down the right and he cut the ball back for Nkunku to calmly slot his first goal since January from close to the penalty spot.

Chelsea defender James - on in the 69th minute for only his second appearance since December during an injury-plagued season - pushed his studs into Pedro after being tackled to the floor and, following another VAR review, was dismissed for the second time this term.

Adingra then volleyed against the left upright before Welbeck poked in Pedro's low cross in the seventh minute of added time to briefly increase the tension.

Additional reporting by PA Sport.