It was the Seagulls’ 2-1 victory at Arsenal last weekend that allowed Spurs to steal the initiative in the race for the top four by thumping Aston Villa a day later, but those watching events at the Emirates closely will have seen enough not to mark this down as a home gimme in the run-in and so it proved as Leandro Trossard’s wonderfully composed last-minute winner made it back-to-back victories in this part of town.
Graham Potter’s side had been in wretched form, with one goal, six defeats and a 0-0 draw with bottom side Norwich to show for the seven games preceding their north London double-header, but have risen to the role of top four kingmakers with a pair of impressive displays.
Led by the magnificent Yves Bissouma - who will himself surely be plying his trade for a club with Champions League ambitions come August - they stifled a previously free-flowing Spurs side who had scored nine times in their last two matches. The much lauded attacking triumvirate of Heung-min Son, Dejan Kulusevski and Harry Kane misfired for the first time since February’s defeat at Burnley, the pair of flying wingers largely grounded and Kane starved of those deep pockets from which he has been busily redefining the possibilities of the centre-forward’s remit.
Such space might have opened up more readily had it not been for Craig Pawson’s clear desperation to keep a full complement on the field. The referee neglected to send Kulusevski off for a riled elbow on Marc Cucurella and then allowed Enock Mwepu two further lives when already on a booking, the second of two quick fouls - on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg - certainly worthy of a second yellow before the break.
Kulusevski’s lash out came as a rash response to Cucurella’s tug but it was symptomatic of a day on which Spurs’ usually rampant front-three were frustrated and constrained, their best chances coming from an opportunistic long-throw and a hopeful clearing header by Hojbjerg rather than the slick, crafted counters of recent weeks.
The door was quickly slammed shut on Son’s one brief opening on the break by the omnipresent Bissouma, while Kulusevski was denied by an important Cucurella intervention and Joel Veltman made a similarly crucial tackle on Kane, who was left limping after being landed on awkwardly by Robert Sanchez - untested in the Brighton goal - and struggled to influence the game thereafter.
That neither Son nor Kulusevski were left on the pitch by Antonio Conte as Spurs searched first for a late winner and then an even later equaliser said plenty about the scale of their individual and collective rare off-days.
If the last week has taught us anything it is that both Arsenal and Tottenham remain too liable to them, too inherently flawed, to think there won’t be further twists and turns along the way. Most run-in predictions would have had them down for three points apiece from home games against Brighton. Instead, they’ve not managed one between them.
Set against a title race defined by freakish consistency and win-or-bust jeopardy, the imperfections, the blips, are almost reassuring. So long as they are distributed relatively evenly, all roads once again point towards a blockbuster derby meeting on May 12.
At half-time, Spurs legend Alan Mullery, the guest of honour here, had urged the home crowd to applaud the visitors on account of the favour performed at the Emirates last Saturday. A similar ovation is now due from across north London.