No one said it was going to be easy, not least David Moyes. But after Saïd Benrahma’s late equaliser cancelled out Danny Welbeck’s goal moments earlier, their manager will still not be giving up hope that his side can seal a miraculous top-four finish just yet.
It could have been even better following a frantic finale that saw referee Andre Marriner wave away appeals for a West Ham penalty for handball in injury. As it is, a point against Brighton leaves West Ham still in with a fighting chance of ending their excellent season with something to show for it.
With West Brom and Southampton to play in their final two fixtures and a five-point gap to make up on Chelsea, Champions League football may remain unlikely but you can be certain Moyes will not let them give up until it is impossible.
Brighton’s improved home form in recent weeks had seen them pick up seven points from their previous three matches on the south coast to secure their Premier League status under Potter. But with the carrot of potentially finishing above rivals Crystal Palace for the first time since they were promoted in 2017, their manager had been keen to stress beforehand that there was still plenty for his side to play for even without the services of the suspended captain Lewis Dunk.
West Ham’s defeat to Everton last week and other results going against them meant that the visitors knew nothing less than three points would give them an opportunity to stay in the hunt for Champions League qualification.
Moyes made three changes here, with Declan Rice’s return in midfield for the first time since he picked up a knee injury on international duty at the end of March extremely timely for his hopes of making Gareth Southgate’s England squad next week.
Jesse Lingard, who Moyes again admitted this week he would love to sign on a permanent deal from Manchester United in the summer, is another dead cert for the European Championships given his form since joining on loan in January. Yet despite his promptings, West Ham found it hard to impose themselves as Brighton kept possession well in the opening exchanges.
The best opportunities in a cagey opening half an hour both involved crosses that flashed across the face of goal, although at least Michail Antonio almost made contact with Aaron Cresswell’s excellent ball when a similar attempt from Brighton’s Pascal Gross earlier on had evaded everyone.
A hopelessly mistimed Antonio header that was hacked away to safety by Dan Burn at least indicated that West Ham were getting closer as they started to dominate the midfield, before a delightful touch from Pablo Fornals almost created an opening until Brighton’s defenders snuffed out the chance.
Fornals also saw another goalbound effort blocked inside the area as West Ham piled on the pressure, before Tomas Soucek’s powerful effort was pushed away to safety by Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sánchez.
Having been largely a spectator for the first half, Lukasz Fabianski was called into action just after the break as Alireza Jahanbakhsh broke free on the right but decided to shoot instead of picking out the unmarked Danny Welbeck. Soucek was next to go close with a header that whistled just over the bar before Fabianski saved again, this time from Leandro Trossard.
Jahanbakhsh should then have given Brighton the lead after he was picked out by Burn’s brilliant long ball and rounding Fabianski, only for the Iran international’s shot from a tight angle to miss by a matter of inches.
West Ham’s remarkable campaign so far has been largely based on defensive solidity and ruthlessly exploiting space on the break but with the impressive Yves Bissouma patrolling the middle of the pitch, they struggled to create openings. Moyes turned to Benrahma in the hope that the Algerian could provide the missing spark as the time ticked away.
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It was his cross that picked out Dawson for what looked like being West Ham’s biggest chance of the night, before Welbeck pounced to slot home a brilliant pass from substitute Percy Tau. It seemed Brighton had sealed the points but Benrahma clearly had other ideas