MIDFIELDER Kalvin Phillips saw red as Leeds United’s impressive ascent in the Championship was brought to a halt by new leaders Brighton at The Amex.
After Brighton came flying out of the traps at their home fortress, Leeds were reduced to 10 men in the 23rd minute when Phillips was sent off for preventing a certain Brighton goal with his arm.
Glenn Murray easily converted the penalty and only lax finishing and smart saves by Rob Green denied Brighton, and Murray in particular, a second until the 82nd minute.
The game’s clincher also arrived from the penalty spot as Kyle Bartley was penalised for pulling Lewis Dunk’s shirt, allowing Tomer Hemed to slam home from 12 yards.
Leeds entered the game with nine league wins from their previous 13 fixtures and another victory would have taken them third.
But against the backdrop of chairman Massimo Cellino’s upcoming 18-month ban and amid interest in the club from Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani, the Whites remain fourth ahead of today’s games, the results of which could leave the Whites outside of the play-off places.
Brighton started with a high intensity, but a cross from Oliver Norwood went flying wide and ended a spell of early pressure.
At the other end, a raking left-flank cross from Charlie Taylor dropped just over Chris Wood’s head in front of the 2,736 travelling Leeds fans in the away end.
But Brighton posed the first real sense of danger in the 11th minute when Jamie Murphy did Luke Ayling for pace as he approached the penalty box and Ayling was booked for hauling him down.
Oliver Norwood took the free-kick on the edge of the area and curled in a fine delivery that flew inches over unmarked Shane Duffy at close range.
After Hadi Sacko tripped Murphy in a similar position but slightly further out, Norwood delivered an almost identical free-kick to his previous attempt, which also went narrowly wide.
Brighton had their tails up and Pontus Jansson became the second Whites player to be booked in the 19th minute after a foul on Murray.
Just three minutes later Leeds midfielder Phillips was sent off for handball.
A dangerous corner reached Dunk at the far post and his flick was heading for the back of the net to be kept out by a diving Phillips and his outstretched arm.
Referee Paul Tierney gave Phillips his marching orders and awarded Brighton a penalty, from which Murray coolly sent Green the wrong way.
Whites’ head coach Garry Monk reacted by sending Souleymane Doukara into a more defensive role alongside Ronaldo Vieira in midfield but Brighton continued to dominate, with Kyle Bartley forced to block Sam Baldock’s shot before Murray – who was earlier booked – hit the side netting with a shot.
Leeds were presented with half a chance in the first minute of stoppage-time when Hadi Sacko’s low drive found Wood free in the area. However, the striker got his feet in a tangle and the opportunity went begging.
In the third and final minute of first-half stoppage-time, Brighton went agonisingly close to bagging a second when Murphy again skinned Ayling before pulling the ball back to Murray whose rising effort was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Green.
Monk sent on Matt Grimes for Sacko after the half-time break, but after a quiet opening 10 minutes Brighton were only denied a second when Green produced a smart low save to keep out a stinging drive from Murphy.
The Seagulls had the ball in the net through Duffy from a 70th-minute corner, but the effort was ruled offside.
Monk then sent on Dallas for Doukara, but Brighton looked to be cruising and Duffy put a free header straight at Green.
On 83 minutes the hosts finally bagged their second and again through a penalty as Bartley pulled Dunk’s shirt in the area.
Six minutes after coming on for Murray, Hemed this time converted to double the home side’s lead and wrap up a game that in truth looked over from the 23rd minute.
Leeds United: Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson (Cooper 88), Taylor, Vieira, Phillips, Sacko (Grimes 45), Roofe, Doukara (Dallas 71), Wood. Unused substitutes: Silvestri, Berardi, Mowatt, Antonsson.
Brighton: Stockdale; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Pocognoli; Knockaert (Skalak 87), Stephens, Norwood, Murphy (March 66); Baldock, Murray (Hemed 77). Unused substitutes: Maenpaa, Goldson, Hunt, Sidwell.
Referee: Paul Tierney.