LUKE MURPHY capped an impressive debut by netting a dramatic stoppage time winner for Leeds United, writes Richard Sutcliffe.
The midfielder, signed in the summer from Crewe Alexandra, latched on to a knockdown before beating Tomasz Kuszczak from close range to prompt joyous scenes of celebration at Elland Road.
It was the perfect end to an afternoon that had seen Brian McDermott’s side battle back from conceding an early goal and level through Ross McCormack.
Then, as both sides had chances to win it, Murphy popped up to net with just seconds of the four minutes stoppage time remaining to seal a dramatic win.
With tickets pegged at Catgeory C prices, the sold out signs had gone up in the ticket office ahead of kick-off to ensure the players were met on leaving the tunnel by a sea of white shirts in the crowd.
However, despite the pumped up atmosphere, Leeds suffered the worst possible start with Brighton taking just 13 minutes to open the scoring.
Leonardo Ulloa was the scorer, showing great awareness to get across Tom Lees and rifle the ball past Paddy Kenny after latching on to an incisive pass from the right wing from Bruno Saltor.
It was the worst possible start but within six minutes the home side were on level terms thanks to a fine finish from McCormack.
A weak defensive header created the opportunity and the United striker made no mistake in front of watching Scotland manager Gordon Strachan by taking a touch to control before rolling the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak.
With United clearly buoyed to be back on level terms, Luke Murphy had a couple of efforts that flashed wide before Noel Hunt shot over after a knock-down from Luke Varney.
Lees then made amends for his earlier error when he bravely threw himself in front of a shot by Inigo Calderon that seemed destined for the top corner to send the teams in level at the break.
After such an impressive first half, the second 45 minutes always had a lot to live up to.
For the opening 20 minutes or so, it proved to be something of a non-event as both sides cancelled each other out in the sunshine.
Brighton were then the first to make their move to win the game with Paddy Kenny needing to be alert to keep out both Andrew Crofts and Inigo Calderon in quick succession.
Stung into action, Dominic Poleon then shot wide for Leeds before heading wide under pressure from Gordon Greer after being picked out by McCormack.
Brian McDermott threw Matt Smith on in the closing stages but a winner wouldn’t come as Poleon had a shot saved and Paul Green then blazed over.
At the other end, Will Buckley was denied by a Kenny save to set up the truly dramatic finale and send the United fans home happy.
Brian McDermott felt his Leeds side reaped the rewards of never saying die.
“I think it connected with his hand. Whether it was handball or not, I don’t know,” McDermott said with a knowing smile.
“There was a dispute, but there was about their goal which was a yard offside. Then we get a goal with the last kick of the game and you take that on the first day of the season.
“Both sides could have won no doubt but in the Championship if you try and win and keep going, you get the breaks.”