Robbie Reinelt and Kerry Mayo reveal what happened after the most important goal in Brighton's history

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Avoid defeat at Hereford on the final day of season in May 1997 and stay in the Football League.

That was the task facing Steve Gritt's Brighton after a long and unsettled final season at the Goldstone Ground.

Albion had been rock bottom of the Football League and in October they were a worrying 11 points, from safety and looked doomed.

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Gritt's arrival from Charlton Athletic inspired a quite remarkable 12-game unbeaten run and going into the final day at Edgar Street a draw or better would see them survive and Hereford would drop out.

Robbie Reinelt celebrates his famous equaliser at Hereford in 1997.Robbie Reinelt celebrates his famous equaliser at Hereford in 1997.
Robbie Reinelt celebrates his famous equaliser at Hereford in 1997. | Getty

3,000 Brighton fans made the trip and the tension was almost unbearable when Albion's Kerry Mayo netted an agonising own goal on 21 minutes.

Mayo said, "For their goal, I just remember the ball deflecting off my foot and going into the top corner. It was right in front of our travelling fans and I laid there with my hands over my head.

"I just wanted the ground to swallow me up.

"I remember the coach journey going to the ground. It was just a sea of blue-and-white fans, like an FA Cup Final.

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The celebrations begin at Edgar StreetThe celebrations begin at Edgar Street
The celebrations begin at Edgar Street | Getty

"We were either going to stay in the Football League or drop out of it, simple as that. For a club as big as the Albion to be in that position, it was quite remarkable really.

“Robbie Reinelt then scored the goal in the second half to equalise, but it was a very nervous ending when they went through one-v-one and Mark Ormerod made an absolutely world-class save.

"If it wasn’t for Mark and Robbie, the club would have gone out of the Football League that day.”

Renielt was 23 at the time and arrived from Colchester United for £15,000 a few months earlier. He was introduced as a substitute for Paul McDonald and on 62 minutes his place in Albion's history was assured.

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Robbie Reinelt's goal was a great relief to Kerry Mayo who netted a first half own goalRobbie Reinelt's goal was a great relief to Kerry Mayo who netted a first half own goal
Robbie Reinelt's goal was a great relief to Kerry Mayo who netted a first half own goal | Getty

Craig Maskell's left-foot volley smacked the post and Reielt "just hit it."

“It was on my left foot and I was not thinking anything other than ‘just hit it!’” said the striker who is now 46.

“It was only after the final whistle that I realised what had happened.

“I was told a couple of days before that I wouldn’t be starting and it did hurt,” he admits. “But I kind of expected it as we had two good strikers [Ian Baird and Craig Maskell] and Steve knew what he was doing.

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“Maybe it was because I was on the bench, but I never got nervous beforehand. I actually slept in and nearly missed breakfast!

"It was quite surreal; on one hand you have survived relegation, but on the other you have sent another club out of the Football League.

“I remember a lot of the younger lads went out in Brighton when we got back and it was like we had won promotion. I didn’t have to buy a drink all night!”

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