Craig Mackail-Smith continued his impressive record of scoring every time he has played Leeds United in senior football, but missed a second-half penalty to complete his hat-trick as Neil Warnock’s men returned north with a point.
With the game deadlocked at 2-2 after 75 minutes, the former Peterborough striker failed to beat Paddy Kenny for the second time from 12 yards.
The 28-year-old had opened the scoring by slamming in a first-half spot-kick and put his side ahead again in the 48th minute after El-Hadji Diouf’s equaliser.
Diouf scored his second goal in as many matches from the penalty spot after Luke Varney, keeping top scorer Luciano Becchio on the bench, was brought down in the area.
Leeds levelled for a second time in the 66th minute when substitute Becchio made an impact with his first touch, seeing the ball deflect off his knee and into the net from Michael Brown’s curling effort.
Mackail-Smith’s subsequent failed attempt from a second penalty for the home side left the Seagulls without a win in seven attempts, while the Whites have failed to secure a triumph in their last four league outings.
The Seagulls made their early dominance count in the 16th minute when Mackail-Smith emphatically converted from the penalty spot following Lee Peltier’s clumsy tackle on the lively Will Buckley.
Mackail-Smith almost netted a second three minutes later, only to see his shot from the edge of the area deflected onto an upright.
Andrea Orlandi wasted an opportunity to register his first Brighton goal when he hit Bruno Saltor’s sublime delivery into the ground and over the bar when unmarked at the back post.
Leeds started to settle and got their reward after 37 minutes. Bruno needlessly fouled Varney in the area and after referee Lee Mason pointed to the spot again, Diouf slammed in his fifth goal of the campaign.
Mackail-Smith was close to putting his side ahead again before the interval, but his shot on the turn was deflected just wide.
However, the lively marksman got his second two minutes after half-time when he fired in from Buckley’s pull back and would have completed a treble 14 minutes later but for a good save by Kenny from his 18-yard drive.
Leeds levelled when Brown’s curling effort found the bottom corner via a deflection off Becchio, who had just come on for Varney.
Mackail-Smith wasted the chance for a hat-trick 15 minutes from time when he missed from the spot after he was fouled by Sam Byram, with Kenny superbly holding on diving to his right.
Both sides looked for a winner late on. Byram fired straight at Tomasz Kuszczak and Michael Tonge curled a free-kick over, then Kenny pushed away a late effort from Andrew Crofts and Buckley failed to hit the target from 25 yards.
Brighton manager Gus Poyet criticised Warnock’s side’s tactics. The Uruguayan thought luck was against his side as he believed the visitors’ first goal was the result of Varney diving and felt Brown was lucky to still be on the pitch before he played a hand in their second after a couple of cynical fouls.
“The assessment is easy. It’s one team playing football, one team going forward and another team getting lucky,” said former Leeds assistant manager Poyet.
“With the first penalty, if it was one of our players I would imagine Mr Warnock would absolutely destroy our player for diving, which is disappointing.
“Second goal their player shouldn’t be on the pitch; you know, I know, the referee knows, Mr Warnock knows.
“He (the referee) keeps a player on the pitch and then (he) scored the equaliser.
“He made a big impact on the game. Saying that, it happens in football.”
Conversely, Warnock praised referee Lee Mason for allowing the game to flow although he felt he was perhaps a touch lenient in the early stages.
“I think the referee did wrong earlier. I think there were quite a few challenges that could have been punished but he was like an old-fashioned referee and even I was shouting at him,” said Warnock.
The Leeds manager was delighted to come away with a point, singling out the performance of goalkeeper Kenny.
“I think he’s the best ‘keeper in the Premier League, let alone the Championship. I think we got him cheap,” Warnock added.
“The other night took a lot out of us against Southampton (in the Capital One Cup) but all credit to the lads.
“We never gave in even when we were twice behind. We looked a strong outfit but I thought we did ever so well, we stuck at it.”
Brighton & Hove Albion: Kuszczak, Saltor, Greer, El-Abd, Bridge, Hammond (Crofts 78), Orlandi (Dicker 78), Bridcutt, Barnes (Dobbie 82), Mackail-Smith, Buckley. Unused substitutes: Ankergren, Dunk, Calderon, David Lopez.
Leeds United: Kenny, Byram, Lees (Pugh 41), Pearce, Peltier, White, Brown, Austin, Tonge, Diouf (Norris 80), Varney (Becchio 65). Unused substitutes: Ashdown, Green, Gray, Hall.
Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire).