REFEREE Lee Mason disallowed Lewis Dunk’s Brighton equaliser against West Brom, after changing his decision TWICE as the Baggies somehow beat Graham Potter’s men.
The confusion began when the Seagulls defender cheekily took a free-kick from 20 yards quickly, catching out Baggies goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
Lewis Dunk tried to take the free-kick earlyCredit: PA:Press Association
Referee Lee Mason got himself in a pickleCredit: Reuters
Dunk, 29, was convinced that Mason had blown the whistle for the kick to be taken, strongly arguing his case with the official.
Unexpectedly, the Brighton‘s skipper’s protestations initially appeared to ring true, with Mason deciding to give the goal after all.
It was then West Brom captain Kyle Bartley’s turn to argue his case, with the Baggies insisting that the set-piece was taken too quickly.
VAR eventually intervened, instructing Mason not to give the goal.
And Brighton, 1-0 down from Bartley’s earlier header, were then made to take the free-kick again – with Dunk this time sending it harmlessly into Johnstone’s grasp.
Potter appeared bemused on the touchline, while even Sam Allardyce had his head in his hands.
The final judgement was that Mason had blown the whistle twice, once before the kick indicating for play to be stopped.
And a second time while the ball was in mid-air, meaning the free-kick had to be retaken.
The referee only served to irritate both sets of playersCredit: PA:Press Association
Mason tried to explain what had happened to both bemused managersCredit: Getty – Pool
Before the mayhem, West Brom began the day on 14 points – 11 from safety and 12 off Brighton in 16th.
That is down partly to Allardyce’s side averaging just 7.8 shots per game in the Premier League this season, the lowest rate in the competition since 1998.
But the opener came from a wild long-range attempt by Okay Yokuslu in the 11th minute which was deflected for a corner.
And from that set-piece – a pin-point delivery by Conor Gallagher – rose Bartley to head home unmarked from six yards.
The 10th West Brom goal scored under Big Sam – and the 5th via a set-piece.
No surprise sadly for Potter’s side, with only Sheffield United and Leeds having a worse record than Brighton of conceding from crosses.
But from a cross of their own six minutes later, they were handed – quite literally – a golden chance to respond instantly.
A corner from the visitors was met by Dan Burn, but at first glance the competing, outstretched arm of Yokuslu appeared to block it.
Kyle Bartley rose highest to give WBA the leadCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Pascal Gross struck the bar from the spotCredit: Reuters
Danny Welbeck struck the post late onCredit: EPA
Play continued for another minute before VAR asked referee Mason to review the monitor, where after a quick check he pointed to the spot.
With Neal Maupay not having the best penalty conversion rate this season, Pascal Gross – who scored two from two so far – stepped up.
But he ended that 100 per cent record after a stuttered run-up led to his sweet strike crashing off the crossbar and away.
And then, after being so decisive with the penalty decision, ref Mason’s decision-making – or lack of – caused the aforementioned chaos, anger and confusion in the 28th minute.
The rest of the half was as frantic as Mason’s trigger-happy whistle blowing.
The Baggies could have doubled their lead after Ainsley Maitland-Niles was put through on goal by Mbaye Diagne but somehow missed the target.
And Johnstone was called into action once more to deny Connolly with his feet.
Potter responded by replacing Alexis Mac Allister with Adam Lallana after the break, but it was Maupay and Connolly who linked up again to create another glorious chance.
Brighton pushed and pushed, incredibly squandering a second penalty – this time with Danny Welbeck striking the post.
But like the story of their season, chances went begging, as did the points to take them away from the drop zone.
⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds