Brighton were the only side to beat Chelsea in last season’s WSL campaign, but first-half goals from Guro Reiten and Sam Kerr set the Blues on course for victory.
Danielle Carter scored her second of the season for the Seagulls at the start of the second half, but substitute Beth England re-established Chelsea’s two-goal cushion with just over 10 minutes to play.
The hosts started brightest, with Pernille Harder and Kerr going close before the ninth-minute opener.
Reiten’s goal came after the Norwegian connected with Fran Kirby’s through ball, and she blasted the ball through the Seagulls defence for her opening goal of the season.
The best first-half chance for Brighton came when Aileen Whelan’s half-volley was cleared off the line.
In the 38th minute, Kerr teamed up once again with Kirby. The Australian beat Megan Walsh to Kirby’s looped ball to head home her fifth of the season.
Brighton struck straight after the restart, Carter controlling the ball well before placing it in the bottom corner from close range. It marked the first home league goal Chelsea have conceded since Brighton’s win at Kingsmeadow in February.
Reiten’s curling free kick was well saved, and Melanie Leupolz’s shot was just over, as Chelsea tried to make their lead more comfortable.
Three minutes after coming on as a substitute, England sealed Chelsea’s win with 11 minutes left. She took on Kirby’s pass before striking it past Walsh into the top corner.
It makes it four competitive wins on the bounce for Emma Hayes’ side before starting their Champions League campaign on Wednesday.
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Hope Powell, Brighton manager: “Not at our best first half, better second half. To be honest, I was really proud of the way we had a really good go.
“I think Chelsea respected us with their starting 11. I think we tried to play the game that would get us something, some sort of outcome. We have to respect the strength in depth of Chelsea. In the second half, we had a go, we rattled them, we scored, we felt we were in it.
“We were working hard to the draw. But Chelsea were a bit too good for us today. But I’m really encouraged by the performance.”
Emma Hayes, Chelsea manager: “It should have been done and dusted a lot sooner. We had a lot of good transition moments in the first half, but I thought it was a good performance in the first half from the team.
“We created good chances, but I don’t think we executed them. I thought it was a wonderful performance from Guro Reiten. She was exceptional today, got her first goal of the season. Then the ball from Fran [Kirby] to Sam [Kerr] is out of this world.
“At 2-0 we were comfortable, but we started the second half like we were still in the changing room. We gave away a sloppy goal. Our game management beyond that limited them to two shots. Third goal was the least we deserved. Brilliant impact from the bench again. Especially pleased for Beth [England], that will do her confidence the world of good.”
Chelsea (3-5-2): Ann-Katrin Berger, Millie Bright, Sophie Ingle, Jess Carter, Melanie Leupolz, Guro Reiten, Fran Kirby, Magda Eriksson, Sam Kerr, Erin Cuthbert, Pernille Harder
Substitutes: Niamh Charles for Cuthbert 76, Beth England for Kerr 76, Jonna Andersson for Reiten 82, Jessie Fleming for Kirby 82
Substitutes not used: Zecira Musovic, Carly Telford, Aniek Nouwen, Drew Spence, Jorja Fox
Goals: Reiten 9, Kerr 37, England 79
Bookings: Bright 27
Brighton (5-3-2): Megan Walsh, Emma Koivisto, Felicity Gibbons, Danique Kerkdijk, Maya Le Tissier, Aileen Whelan, Megan Connolly, Inessa Kaagman, Kayleigh Green, Danielle Carter, Victoria Williams
Substitutes: Emily Simpkins for Kerkdijk 46, Ellie Brazil for Connolly 71, Rinsola Babajide for Carter 85
Substitutes not used: Frances Stenson, Katie Robinson, Juliet Arimoro, Libby Bance, Lea Cordier
Goals: Carter 48
Bookings: Kaagman 64
Referee: Amy Fearn