Nottingham Forest produced an excellent display to beat promotion-chasing Brighton and Hove Albion by three goals to nil at The City Ground this afternoon.
A controversial strike from Zach Clough put Forest ahead on the hour mark and Ben Osborn doubled the advantage late on before Clough slotted home a penalty with the last kick of the game to secure all three points for The Reds.
Gary Brazil made five changes to the side which picked up a point at Wigan Athletic last weekend as Dani Pinillos, Clough, David Vaughan, Mustapha Carayol and Ben Brereton were replaced by Armand Traore, Chris Cohen, Hildeberto Pereira, Jamie Ward and Matty Cash.
Following an even start to the contest, it was Brighton who fashioned the first goalscoring opportunity of the afternoon. A careless ball into midfield from Danny Fox presented Anthony Knockaert with a chance but his curling strike was palmed away well by Jordan Smith. The Forest goalkeeper then got up quickly to save the follow-up attempt.
Forest were more than matching their promotion-chasing visitors and a couple of half-chances to take the lead midway through the first half. Brighton goalkeeper David Stockdale was at full-stretch to turn Jamie Ward's effort around the post before Britt Assombalonga shot inches wide of the target from the edge of the penalty area.
Goalscoring chances were also at a premium at the beginning of the second half as Steve Sidwell and Ward both struck efforts wide of the post but it was Brighton who came inches away from taking the lead on 58 minutes.
Knockaert's deep free-kick was headed on at the back post by Lewis Dunk but his central-defensive partner Shane Duffy was unable to tuck the ball into the net from his position next to the opposite post as Forest escaped.
That miss was to prove costly for The Seagulls as Forest hit the front in controversial fashion two minutes later. A pull-back from the byline from Ward was swept towards goal by Clough and it nestled in the top corner seemingly off the head of Assombalonga, who looked in offside position. The referee consulted his assistant and ruled that Assombalonga had not got a touch on the ball and the goal was awarded to Clough.
Brighton knew they couldn't afford to miss a chance to overtake Newcastle at the top of the Championship and responded well to going behind. Substitute Solly March struck a powerful low effort towards the bottom corner but Smith got down well to his left to palm the ball behind for a corner.
Knockaert always looked dangerous for the visitors and he almost levelled the game on 73 minutes. The ball bounced around inside the Forest penalty area before it fell to the feet of the former Leicester man but he lashes a shot inches over the crossbar from close range.
The Reds needed a second goal to breathe easier and they got it with one minute of normal time to play. A strong back-pass to goalkeeper Stockdale caught him on the back foot, he attempted to clear it away but only succeeded in giving it straight to Osborn who was able to slot the ball into the unguarded net in front of a delirious Trent End.
As the game entered the seventh minute of second-half stoppage time, Forest won a penalty as substitute Brereton was brought down in the box by Dunk. Clough stepped up and confidently sent Stockdale the wrong way from the spot to hand Brazil's side a hugely-important victory and a confidence boost ahead of Tuesday night's home game against Brentford.
Forest: J.Smith, Lichaj (c), Worrall, Fox, Traore, Pereira (Clough 59'), Cohen, Cash, Ward (Tshibola 90'), Osborn, Assombalonga (Brereton 77')
Subs not used: Evtimov, Carayol, Lam, McCormack
Goals: Clough 60', (pen) 90', Osborn 89'
Brighton: Stockdale, Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Rosenior, Knockaert, Stephens, Sidwell (Norwood 67'), Murphy (March 65'), Murray, Baldock (Hemed 72')
Subs not used: Walton, Tomori, Huenemeier, Kayal
Bookings: Stephens 45', Dunk 63', Rosenior 90'
Referee: Oliver Langford
Attendance: 22,020 (1,919 away)