- Brighton now two points behind leaders Burnley
- Second successive 4-0 win for the Seagulls
- Leeds suffer heaviest defeat of the season so far
- United nine points above the relegation zone
BRIGHTON moved to within a point of the SkyBet Championship’s top two as four first-half goals swept a poor Leeds United aside.
Tomer Hemed converted an 18th minute penalty after Scott Wootton felled Sam Baldock and Liam Cooper diverted a Baldock effort past his own keeper Marco Silvestri for 2-0.
Top scorer Hemed slotted in his second of the night – and 11th of the season – before Lewis Dunk powered home Dale Stephens’ corner to put Chris Hughton’s team out of sight.
Leeds marginally improved after the break as Alex Mowatt twice fired over but the damage had long been done, much to the dismay of the 1,522 fans who made the 520-mile round trip to west Sussex.
Head coach Steve Evans repeatedly vented his fury on the sidelines as the error-prone visitors, who stay 17th in the table, contributed to their own downfall and remain without an away league win since December.
For Brighton, it was a second successive 4-0 victory after Bristol City fell victim at Ashton Gate six days ago as they went six points clear in fourth place with a dominant display in front of their home supporters.
The buoyant Seagulls looked like flying away with the game from the moment Hemed cheekily chipped home from the spot after referee Peter Bankes penalised Wootton for hauling down Baldock as he charged into the box.
Leeds again shot themselves in the foot when Cooper inadvertently steered Baldock’s poked attempt into his own net after good approach play involving the impressive Stephens.
Brighton were in the mood for more and Hemed slid a low shot into the bottom corner after Leeds skipper Sol Bamba failed to clear his lines effectively.
Jamie Murphy and Beram Kayal forced smart saves from Silvestri before Dunk got in on the act on 37 minutes with his first goal of the season, an unstoppable header into the top corner from a pinpoint Stephens delivery.
Evans sent on Mustapha Carayol for the wounded Wootton at the break but it was a damage limitation exercise for the beleaguered Whites, who restored a semblance of pride with a better second half performance.
Mowatt lashed over on two occasions from promising situations, Charlie Taylor tested David Stockdale and 20-year-old Lewie Coyle went close with a left-footed effort.
Brighton struggled to fashion clear-cut chances after the break, Hemed produced a routine save out of Silvestri from the edge of the box and substitute Jiri Skalak was ran off the ball by Bamba when clean through.
But the hosts had already demonstrated their promotion credentials with a blistering four-goal spell in 21 minutes to complete a league double over Leeds, following a 2-1 success at Elland Road in October.
The Whites, meanwhile, will be desperate to get their biggest defeat in two years quickly out of their system as their wait for a first ever win at the AMEX Stadium was extended for another year.
Substitutes: Skalak (on for Baldock 74′), Wilson (on for Hemed 77′) and Sidwell (on for Kayal 78′).
Not used: Maenpaa (GK), Greer, Calderon, Zamora.
Booked: Rosenior (7′), Baldock (34′), Goldson (60′)
Goals: Hemed (18′ pen, 28′), Cooper (22′ og), Dunk (38′)
Substitutes: Carayol (on for Wootton 45′), Erwin (on for Doukara 75′) and Murphy (on for Diagouraga 84′).
Not used: Peacock-Farrell (GK), Berardi, Adeyemi, Antenucci.
Booked: Mowatt (33′), Coyle (57′), Cooper (68′), Taylor (90+3′)
Referee: Peter Bankes (Merseyside) – 8/10