The wait for a win is over. Alan Pardew finally has lift off at West Brom.
Appointed at the end of November, Pardew could not have envisaged getting to the middle of January before claiming a first Premier League victory, but here at last was a result that added three points and injected belief into a survival mission that had begun to look doomed.
This was a ‘critical point’ in West Brom’s season, Pardew had admitted beforehand, and his players delivered in response, producing a compelling display that resonated with supporters and was utterly deserving of victory.
Jonny Evans sprinted over to the home support with team-mate Ahmed Hegazi to celebrate after scoring an early opener
The defender peeled off to the back post and fired a close-ranged header past Brighton goalkeeper Matthew Ryan
Craig Dawson climbed the highest to dive and head home from a corner to double the home side’s lead at The Hawthorns
Dawson peeled away and leaped in the air to celebrate scoring West Brom’s second with the home supporters
MATCH FACTS, LIVE LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
West Brom (4-4-2): Foster 6; Dawson 8.5 (Nyom 81′), Hegazi 8, Evans 8 (McAuley 84′), Gibbs 7; Phillips 8, Krychowiak 7, Barry 8, Brunt 7.5; Rodriguez 7.5 (Livermore 79′), Rondon 7;
Subs not used: Robson-Kanu, Yacob, Myhill, McClean
Goalscorers: Evans (4), Dawson (55)
Manager: Alan Pardew 8
Brighton (4-4-1-1): Ryan 6; Bruno 6, Duffy 6, Dunk 6.5, Bong 5; Stephens, Propper 5 (Kayal 76′); Knockaert 5, Gross 5 (Baldock 66′ 6.5), Izquierdo 4 (March 46′ 6); Murray 5;
Subs not used: Hemed, Goldson, Schelotto, Krul
Manager: Chris Hughton 5
Referee: Martin Atkinson 6
Jonny Evans drifted to the back post to head in from close range (left). West Brom doubled their lead after Craig Dawson headed home from a corner (right). CLICK HERE to see more from Sportsmail’s brilliant MATCH ZONE feature.
The Hawthorns was bouncing for the closing stages as West Brom homed in on ending a 20-game winless run that was the fourth-longest in Premier League history.
There were standing ovations for the goalscorers Craig Dawson and Jonny Evans towards the end and Pardew even clapped along from the dugout as the home fans urged their team over the line.
All of a sudden, West Brom’s hopes for staying up appear much brighter, clawing to within two points of safety and now with a group of players that should be full of confidence.
That Evans sent West Brom on the way to victory will not go unnoticed, of course. The defender at the centre of attention in this winter window delivered the kind of display that underlines why Manchester City and Arsenal are keen admirers.
The two opposing managers Chris Hughton and Alan Pardew shake hands and embrace prior to kick-off at The Hawthorns
Hegazi tries to put his arm across Brighton forward Glenn Murray as the pair battle with each other to control the ball
Brighton forward Jose Izquierdo fires a shot at goal from the edge of the penalty box as Craig Dawson goes to challenge him
West Brom defender Kieran Gibbs looks to uses his body to fend off Anthony Knockaert as the ball rolls into his path
Jay Rodriguez dribbles into the penalty area and tries to take on Brighton defenders Lewis Dunk and Gaetan Bong
Brighton barely had a sniff and Chris Hughton must do work in January himself if his goal-shy side are to avoid slipping into deeper danger. Ben Foster was hardly tested and only 17 Premier League goals speaks of an attack short on ideas.
Pardew had tweaked a few things around in training this week to engender a different result on the pitch and there was a change in the stands too, with thousands of clappers handed out to boost the Hawthorns atmosphere.
Supporters accepted the assistance readily and the noise was loud as West Brom started the game with an intensity and purpose that told of the urgency of collecting three points.
The home side’s bright start was capped with a goal inside four minutes and the identity of the scorer had an element of irony about it.
If Evans is sold to Manchester City or Arsenal for around £30million, Pardew will be able to make the offensive signings he believes can trigger a surge to survival.
Midfielder Matthew Phillips waits for the ball to fall as he takes aim from outside the box with Davy Propper pressurizing him
Brighton defender Dunk jumps in the air and crashes into the back of Rodriguez as the pair duel to win the header
Knockaert looks up to question the linesman’s decision after he failed to award the Brighton forward a free-kick
West Brom defender Dawson finds himself in the penalty box and shoots at goal but an advancing Ryan saves with his feet
But for the time being the centre-back wears West Brom colours and remains a vitally important player for the club – in attack as well as defence, it turns out.
Matt Phillips took a flat corner, Jay Rodriguez rose to flick on, and Evans arrived at the far post to head home with venom. The 30-year-old celebrated in a manner that suggested he would be content to stick around a while longer.
Pardew has worked relentlessly on set pieces in a bid to improve the second-worst scoring record in the Premier League and in the ninth minute another routine was unveiled.
Phillips drove in another corner to Dawson, who had found significant space but sent his stooping header wide.
Pardew’s side were producing decent moves in open play too, with Gareth Barry dummying a Phillips pass to free Dawson running in behind, but Brighton were able to block his shot.
Knockaert shows quick feet to work a crossing opportunity down the left flank but Gibbs comes across to block his attempt
Brighton keeper Ryan confidently comes of his goal line to jump in the air and claim the ball despite pressure from Rodriguez
Referee Martin Atkinson checks on both Dawson and Hegazi after the West Brom defenders clashed heads
Evans reads the game well and steps out of defence to win a 50-50 challenge to dispossess Brighton substitute Solly March
West Brom appealed hard for a penalty just after the half hour when Glenn Murray smothered another strike by Phillips and Martin Atkinson really ought to have pointed to the spot. Murray raised his arm in front of his face to divert the effort so the obvious call was handball.
Brighton were offering little in attack but did create one chance for Lewis Dunk following a free-kick. Dawson flung his body in the way to block the goalbound shot.
Dawson then ran through to Salomon Rondon’s pass but Matt Ryan spread himself to save. The defender was not to be denied ten minutes after the break, however. Chris Brunt this time drilled across a corner and Dawson, who had enjoyed a lengthy run up, leapt high to head down and in.
Anthony Knockaert was on the line but the power of Dawson’s header generated such bounce off the grass that the Brighton winger was unable to reach it even though jumping.
In the 67th minute Hughton sent on striker Sam Baldock for his Premier League debut, and in his first act he ran behind Evans and teed up Murray in the box. Murray fed Knockaert for Brighton’s best chance of the match but he skied his finish well over.
Barry, enjoying possibly his finest game for West Brom, then released Salomon Rondon with a terrific pass but he put his finish into the side-netting.
West Brom forward Salomon Rondon fires a powerful shot at goal but misses a gilt-edged chance to secure the victory
Rondon slumps to the ground holding his hands together and looking up to the sky after missing an opportunity to score
Defender Bruno puts his arm across Gareth McAuley and uses his strength to keep hold of possession for the visitors