With the AMEX flooded to the brim with fans for the first time in 539 days, Shane Duffy rose highest from a corner to power a header in off the underside of the crossbar as the stadium erupted with jollity.
The hosts continued to torment their newly-promoted opponents and would soon have a second goal just minutes before the interval as Neal Maupay showed composure to fire the ball clinically beyond Daniel Bachmann.
There would be no resurgence, no way back for visiting manager Xisco as The Seagulls’ best-ever start to a top-flight season was assured.
Story of the Match
A jovial atmosphere awaited the two squadrons as they strode out onto the luscious green grass. Flags brandished from every corner of Sussex’s coliseum, 'Sweet Caroline' belted from the lungs of those donning both blue and yellow: The feeling of normality is gratefully restored.
And that carnival atmosphere would soon be reciprocated on the turf just ten minutes into the battle. A cagey opening would be abruptly ended by a booming, bullet header. It was a simple set-piece - nothing too fancy - as Pascal Gross delivered a perfect corner that found Duffy.
The Irishman leapt like a Canadian salmon, soaring through the air at great height before connecting fiercely with the ball. It slapped the underside of the crossbar before bouncing marginally over the line. Goal. The stadium was in raptures, the Seagulls were ahead.
But they were hungry for more. The appetite's strong amongst those in blue and white. Yves Bissouma was electric, covering every blade of grass long before the halftime whistle was even blown. The visitors had no answers. Ismaila Sarr would break at pace, but there was Lewis Dunk to sniff out the danger. And if it wasn't Dunk, then it was Aaron Webster, then Duffy, and so forth…
And so, as Graham Potter’s men controlled possession for healthy proportions of the opening 45 minutes, a second goal was likely to be that of Brighton’s. Step forward, Maupay. There was little danger to the Hornets’ backline — or so they had thought — as Bachmann rolled the ball out to William Ekong.
The Nigerian’s pass was casual, too casual it appeared as the irrepressible Bissouma pressed hard, winning the ball back in a desperately dangerous area. Maupay burst into life, latching onto the loose pass with terrific avail as he was one-on-one with Bachmann.
The sheer coolness of the Frenchman, he drove the ball home after sending the ‘keeper the wrong way from just inside the area to double his side’s advantage. Game, set and match before the interval.
Would a response be seen from the side from North West London? Not entirely, it soon emerged, as the hosts eyed another. Aaron Connolly bafflingly spurned a glorious chance in front of the jubilant North Stand. The Watford midfield was non-existent, devoid of life as Alexis Mac Allister ran towards goal unguarded.
He slipped in Gross on the right-flank who fizzed the ball across goal. A lucky ricochet perhaps, it found Connolly unmarked, but his first-time effort from just outside the six-yard box was somehow wayward.
The visitors still in with a shout, they came closest to halving the deficit just past the hour-mark. Tom Cleverly found an opening following some intricate one-touch football, but his effort was a tame one as Robert Sanchez dived down at his near-post to parry it away to safety.
That would be Watford’s only shot on-target for the duration of the fixture, and Sanchez demonstrated his mettle to great effect. Cucho was next in line to fire one at goal, but his sweetly-struck volley dipped too late as it flew over the crossbar.
As the minutes oozed away from Xisco’s men it was starting to look increasingly promising for those home supporters in fine voice. There can be no blaming them, too, as this comfortable win propels Potter’s side into second place.
This was Brighton’s sixth consecutive Premier League victory as a glimmering ray of positivity shines over the Sussex coast this evening. Bissouma imperious, his presence was the difference in an otherwise cagey encounter. The hosts deserved winners; it was a crowning moment for the returning supporters.