Brighton & Hove Albion: Can Seagulls go from rags to riches?

Last day drama could see Brighton promoted to the Premier League, 19 years after survival showdown with Hereford

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(Image credit: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Leicester's footballing fairytale has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, but a similarly dramatic story has been unfolding in the Championship, where Brighton & Hove Albion are fighting tooth and nail for promotion to the Premier League and a £100m TV jackpot.

The Seagulls, who last graced the top flight of English football in 1983, are locked in three-way battle with Middlesbrough and Burnley for the two automatic promotion spots, and things could not be tighter.

With two games of the season remaining, all three are level on 87 points. Leaders Burnley have a goal difference of 33, third-placed Brighton, 30.

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Middlesbrough are away at Birmingham tonight, while Burnley and Brighton both play at home on bank holiday Monday, against QPR and Derby respectively.

But whatever happens this weekend, the automatic spots will not be settled until the following week, when Brighton face Middlesbrough in what is likely to be a straight promotion shoot-out, with one team heading for the agony of the play-offs.

The final day visit to Boro promises "to be a pretty tense affair", says FourFourTwo, "but one delicious prospect could present itself if both sides win this weekend and Burnley lose, meaning a draw in Middlesbrough would see both sides promoted".

Gaining promotion to the promised land of the Premier League would mark a stunning turnaround for Brighton, 19 years after the Seagulls faced a similarly momentous game on the final day of the season, but for different reasons.

In 1997 Brighton travelled to Hereford on the final day, knowing that one of the two teams would be relegated from the football league. On that occasion a 1-1 draw was enough to secure the Seagulls league status.

But having been forced to sell their home ground, Brighton spent the next two seasons playing at Gillingham in Kent, before finding a temporary home at the Withdean Stadium in Brighton. But it was not until 2011 that they finally moved to their new purpose-built home on the outskirts of the city.

It is a rags-to-riches story, and while Brighton may not have been 5,000-1 shots like Leicester, odds of 33-1 for promotion placed the Seagulls firmly in the also-rans category at the start of the season. They were assumed to be on a downward trajectory having only narrowly avoided relegation last season.

But former Newcastle and Norwich manager Hughton has been "shrewd rather than flashy" in the transfer market, says FourFourTwo, and has assembled a team in which there is "no single player upon whom all hope is placed".

Club icon Bobby Zamora is probably the best known of the current squad, but at 35 of age he is largely restricted to appearances off the bench.

Hughton has inspired what Shoot magazine calls an "improbable title push". But the dream may not end well for the South Coast club. Burnley and Boro have the big game expertise, while Brighton face two tough fixtures to end the season, and that means the "play-offs loom" for the Seagulls.

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