Burnley started their Saturday evening fixture against Brighton in the relegation zone after Cardiff’s emotional late victory against Southampton.
For all of the Clarets’ excellent form in recent weeks during the league campaign, they knew they had to get something out of the clash with Albion if the undefeated streak was going to maintain relevance in the grand scheme of their survival charge.
Burnley did run out 3-1 winners but it could have been another story on a different evening.
There was one point in the contest that proved to be a telling moment, not just in this match but perhaps the relegation battle as a whole. At 2-0 up, Jeff Hendrick appeared to turn the ball away from the Burnley penalty area with his arm. Yet the referee waved away the protests to the fury of the pressing Brighton eleven.
The visitors dashed up the other end and found themselves with an overload as they burst into the Brighton penalty area. Ashley Barnes was taken down by Mat Ryan but referee Stuart Attwell appeared to play advantage only for Chris Wood to stroke wide. It was at that moment that Attwell pulled the play back for a penalty despite the advantage surely having been used and squandered?
It was a double blow for Brighton who should have been awarded a penalty and a chance to close the gap at 2-1, only for Barnes to convert the spotkick at the other end and seal the three points. A second penalty in successive weeks for the Clarets after over 60 league games without one.
Yet there was a wealth of quality in Burnley’s performance, particularly in the form of their goalkeeper.
Tom Heaton picked out four unbelievable saves to keep out the home side at bay. His ability to stretch to the right and claw away balls that seemed to be on their way past him was a marvel to watch.
However, part of the reason such chances arose were due to defensive concerns on Burnley’s left. Full-back Charlie Taylor found diagonal passes from left to right difficult to deal with and he did not receive much help from the offensive Dwight McNeil in front of him.
As is the Burnley way, they found themselves defending deep and soaking up pressure for large chunks of the game.
Yet their energy and zest were noticeable when breaking forward on the ball. Wood, in particular, proved there is more to his game than just holding up the ball or dominating in the air and played a part in all three goals.
Other than when he fluffed his lines during the controversial advantage before Burnley’s third, Wood’s finishing was outstanding as he lashed home two important strikes for the Clarets.
It all developed into an equation that prevented Burnley from spending the next fortnight in the drop zone, instead pushing them three points clear and, perhaps more importantly, developing a cushion of two sides between them and the bottom three.