Ollie Watkins and Tyrone Mings scored in the final six minutes as Steven Gerrard enjoyed a memorable first match as Aston Villa manager with victory over Brighton.
Gerrard’s bow as a Premier League boss looked set to end in a goalless stalemate until his side broke from an 84th-minute Brighton corner.
Villa went the full length of the field as substitute Ashley Young sent Watkins running down the left wing, with the England forward cutting inside the box before delivering a smart finish beyond Jason Steele.
A minute from time, the hosts got their second as Adam Webster’s attempt to clear John McGinn’s cross went straight to Mings, who finished at the first attempt.
Villa might have had a third but Steele did well to deny Leon Bailey in stoppage time.
The victory ended a run of five straight defeats for Villa, with Gerrard taking applause from all sides of the ground before running down the tunnel in obvious delight.
After taking the applause of the home fans as he made his way to the dugout, it didn’t take Gerrard long to be claiming for every free-kick, booking or penalty that it was possible for his side to get in a first half of limited chances.
It is fairly obvious to say Villa have no-one in their squad who could come close to a favourable comparison to their new manager in his playing pomp.
They do have some useful performers though, in new Poland international Matty Cash, goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and skipper Mings. But they looked limited in the final third.
Until the sensational ending, their best chances came from headers by Cash and Mings, which Premier League debutant Steele made brave saves to repel.
Villa’s club record £33m signing Emiliano Buendia was again a muted force and it was no real surprise when he was replaced by Young for the final 16 minutes.
What this club does have – and the attraction for Gerrard – is a massive fanbase and a great history. ‘Iconic’, was the word Gerrard used in his programme notes.
And by the time the final whistle went, Villa Park was a cauldron of noise as the home fans celebrated their first win since September.
Amid the noise around Dean Smith’s exit and Gerrard’s appointment, it had almost been overlooked that Brighton’s excellent start to the season has now given way to a run of seven games without a win in all competitions, their worst run in almost a year.
Graham Potter’s side retain the confidence to keep possession and maintain their patience as they look for openings but they still find a killer touch elusive.
After Villa’s initial thrusts the Seagulls controlled long periods of the game, denying the hosts any time on the ball while they enjoyed plenty of it, albeit in areas of the field that were not of any particular danger.
Martinez, fresh from keeping the clean sheet against Brazil that secured World Cup qualification for Argentina, made the two most notable saves, beating away an angled Leandro Trossard drive before spreading himself to deny Tariq Lamptey.
Lamptey is slowly returning to form after injury but despite the promptings of Adam Lallana and Yves Bissouma from midfield, once Villa broke the deadlock, there was never any realistic hope of an equaliser.
Aston Villa are next in action against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday, 27 November (15:00 GMT). Brighton have a home game against Leeds, also on 27 November (17:30 GMT).
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Brighton & Hove Albion
- 2CashBooked at 90mins
- 4KonsaBooked at 90mins
- 19NakambaBooked at 59mins
- 41J RamseySubstituted forEl Ghaziat 84′minutes
- 10BuendíaSubstituted forYoungat 74′minutes
- 20IngsSubstituted forBaileyat 66′minutes
- 21El Ghazi
- 4WebsterBooked at 67mins
- 2LampteySubstituted forMaupayat 79′minutes
- 13GroßSubstituted forMac Allisterat 89′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 3CucurellaBooked at 49minsSubstituted forMarchat 64′minutes
- 10Mac Allister
- Anthony Taylor
Match ends, Aston Villa 2, Brighton and Hove Albion 0.
Second Half ends, Aston Villa 2, Brighton and Hove Albion 0.
Corner, Brighton and Hove Albion. Conceded by Tyrone Mings.
Matthew Cash (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Solly March (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Matthew Cash (Aston Villa).
Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Leon Bailey (Aston Villa).
Attempt missed. Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.
Attempt saved. Leon Bailey (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Matt Targett.
Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton and Hove Albion) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Ashley Young (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Leandro Trossard.
Offside, Aston Villa. Ollie Watkins tries a through ball, but Leon Bailey is caught offside.
Goal! Aston Villa 2, Brighton and Hove Albion 0. Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the high centre of the goal following a corner.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Alexis Mac Allister replaces Pascal Groß.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Lewis Dunk.
Attempt blocked. Leon Bailey (Aston Villa) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Matt Targett with a cross.