BRIGHTON put daylight between them and relegation, and the clouds over Newcastle darkened still further.
Make no mistake, the Seagulls were excellent and for once made their superiority count as they recorded back to back wins for only the second time this season.
Brighton piled misery on Newcastle with a thumping 3-0 win at the AmexCredit: Reuters
Leandro Trossard notched a goal and an assist over the struggling MagpiesCredit: Reuters
The Belgian continued his recent run of form in front of goal with a first-half openerCredit: Guardian News & Media / Free to use by all titles in perpetuity under NMC agreement
But it was hard not to feel at least a bit sorry for Steve Bruce and his team, poor as they were for much of the game.
Brighton spend the season failing to convert their attractive football into goals. Then Newcastle turn up at the Amex and they ping two fabulous shots into the side-netting from distance.
Even worse for the visitors, the similar efforts by Leandro Trossard and Danny Welbeck at opposite ends of the pitch, either side of half time, both came immediately after moments of ill fortune for Newcastle.
Poor Isaac Hayden, the latest victim of Newcastle’s injury curse, was probably still on the stretcher when Trossard opened the scoring just 42 seconds after the game restarted.
And moments after Ryan Fraser had come close to equalising with a shot that hit the post, Welbeck.
There was no excusing the poor defending that allowed Neal Maupay to grab a beautiful third.
But you can see why the Toon Army feel the omens aren’t good as they cling ever more desperately on to the hope that there will still be three worse teams than theirs come May.
Brighton are far more than four points better than Newcastle on this evidence. Their second 3-0 win of the campaign was emphatic.
Danny Welbeck doubled Brighton’s lead following good work from TrossardCredit: Rex
Few neutrals will begrudge them taking a big step towards safety.
The Seagulls are rarely less than interesting under Potter.
Sometimes it’s fun just trying to work out what the formation is and who’s supposed to be doing what.
The one change to the personnel who had beaten Southampton was the inclusion of Jakub Moder.
But the Poland international, supposedly a central midfielder, made his full Premier League debut as the left wing back in a fluid 3-4-1-2 set-up.
And true to the Seagulls’ culture of being able to create (and miss) chances from all over the pitch, Moder had two good opportunities in the opening six minutes.
He should have done better with the second in particular, a shot after a pass by Danny Welbeck that did not test Martin Dubravka as much as it might have done.
The home side started the game living up to their billing as potentially the best team ever to be relegated from the Premier League.
Neal Maupay put the icing on the cake with Brighton’s thirdCredit: Reuters
You know what’s coming, Newcastle fans.
The visitors weren’t awful, but they did little to dent the belief that they could end up being one of the worst sides to stay up.
Going forward, it was certainly the case. While Brighton were all runs and movement and ideas, Newcastle struggled to gain and then keep possession, let alone test Robert Sanchez
But after the early scares, the visitors’ defence at least did a decent job of preventing their opponents’ fine approach play leading to a clear-cut chance.
Until, that is, Trossard escaped down the right and crossed to Maupay.
Ciaran Clark’s block was excellent but you still felt the Frenchman’s finish lacked a bit of conviction.
Whatever else you say about Bruce and his team, they’ve had some bad luck with injury and illness. It continued when Brighton’s Yves Bissouma fell and accidentally landed on Hayden, who was carried off in agony.
And almost immediately in the time added on for the long stoppage, Brighton took the lead.
Isaac Hayden added to Newcastle’s growing injury woesCredit: Reuters
After all their pretty football, it was a lofted ball into the left channel by Joel Veltman that led to the chance.
Actually, that’s not correct – it was Trossard’s brilliant control and turn past a sluggish Clark that turned the speculative pass into an opening.
And the Belgian curled a lovely shot into the opposite side-netting to give his team the lead they deserved.
Newcastle almost equalised early in the second half.
Miguel Almiron found Fraser in space on the left and the little Scot curled a fine effort back across goal that clipped the outside of the post.
Fraser and Newcastle knew their luck was out again when Brighton doubled their lead from their next attack with another superb strike.
This time Trossard fed Welbeck and the former England forward surged inside before hitting a shot that arrowed past Dubravka and into the side-netting.
But Newcastle could have done more to stop Pascal Gross sending in a cross and Maupay volleying it home.
The question now is whether they can do enough to stay ahead of Fulham in what looks increasingly like a two-way battle for 17th place.
Steve Bruce is feeling the pressure as the Toon stay just two points above the relegation zoneCredit: Rex