A volley from Glenn Murray and a sweet strike from Anthony Knockaert were enough to give Brighton the league double over arch rival Crystal Palace for the first time since the 83-84 season.
Brighton showed a defensive edge and quality with their limited chances to move eight points clear of Cardiff in 14th place.
Glenn Murray, in the side as a late change after an injury to Florin Andone, got the Seagulls going with his milestone 100th league goal for the Albion.
After a tight opening 19 minutes, a long hopeful ball from Lewis Dunk swirled through the air towards Murray and, when James Tomkins misread the flight of the ball, he took his chance.
The 38-year-old forward set himself and volleyed past Guaita into the far corner to give Brighton what felt like an unlikely lead after 19 minutes.
Until that point it had been a cagey game which threatened to boil over into a tempestuous affair from the off. Inside the first minute Anthony Knockaert lunged into a 50-50 with Luka Milivojevic and caught the Serbian on the groin. The diminutive Frenchman was perhaps fortunate to only see yellow emerge from referee Craig Pawson’s pocket.
With the home crowd growing restless, Crystal Palace poked and prodded at the Brighton defence but, other than two excellent last ditch blocks from Dunk, the home side didn’t create many openings.
Eagles’ manager Roy Hodgson would have been looking for his side to show more of a cutting edge in the second half. That’s exactly what he got when, after 50 minutes, Shane Duffy left his leg dangling in front of Townsend and brought the winger down to give the home side a penalty. Milivojevic duly drilled the ball the wrong side of Maty Ryan to level the scores.
The tide had turned and the Palace players and fans alike could smell blood but, after initially looking rattled, Chris Hughton’s side managed to settle back into the game but were still on the back foot.
The game opened up a bit as the second half wore on but without much quality in the final third. That is, however, until Anthony Knockaert stepped back into the spotlight for all the right reasons.
With 74 minutes gone the winger picked up the ball on the right flank and cut inside. Skipping past two challenges, he wrapped his foot around the ball and curled it perfectly beyond the despairing Guaita and in off the post to restore the Seagulls’ lead and send the travelling fans into ecstasy. That was his final action of the game before being replaced by Solly March but one that will live long in the memory.
Crystal Palace huffed and puffed but struggled to find a way past Brighton who were showing the kind of resolute disciplined defensive performance that was the basis of last season’s Premier League survival but has eluded them of late.
As the game entered stoppage time Brighton threw everything they had at the ball to keep it away from their goal and did just enough to take three points in a game that will stay with the Albion faithful for some time.
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Wan-Bissaka, Dann, Tomkins, Van Aanholt, Schlupp, Milivojevic, McArthur, Townsend, Zaha, Batshuayi | Subs: Speroni, Ward, Kelly, Meyer, Kouyate, Ayew, Benteke
Brighton: Ryan; Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bernardo; Stephens, Propper, Bissouma; Knockaert, Murray, Jahanbakhsh | Subs: Button, Burn, Bong, Kayal, March, Izquierdo, Locadia