Mark Perrow reports from Amex StadiumCity were made to pay for failing to defend two first-half free kicks in an otherwise encouraging performance on the south coast.
Southampton loanee Dean Hammond headed the hosts into the lead after only six minutes, before Andrea Orlandi’s inswinging cross somehow squirmed between the legs of Tom Heaton in the City goal.
The Robins may have been expected to roll over and concede more goals, but instead responded with some attractive passing football the promotion-chasing hosts would have been proud of.
Stephen Pearson and Neil Danns both came close before the interval, but Derek McInnes’ side were ultimately unable to break through.
McInnes made two changes to his side so impressive in overturning high-flying Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium three days prior.
Defender Matthew Bates replaced veteran Louis Carey at the heart of the back four, while top scorer Steven Davies took Ryan Taylor’s starting berth as the lone striker.
But City were to suffer a nightmare start, conceding from a set-piece for the second successive game.
Dangerous winger Will Buckley picked the ball up on the right touchline and exchanged passes with Stephen Dobbie before drawing a foul from left-back Joe Bryan.
Midfield schemer Orlandi took the resulting free kick short to Liam Bridcutt, whose delicate chip into the penalty area was gleefully headed home by Hammond high beyond Heaton’s left hand from six yards.
To their credit, City responded well to the early setback, keeping sustained possession in the Brighton half in the style so effective in toppling Boro in the fog on Teesside.
However, Davies did much to put the home faithful back at ease with an outrageous attempted shot from the corner of the 18-yard box which flew straight out of play for a throw-in twice as far downfield.
Having contained the hosts admirably since the opener, City conceded the softest of second goals to gift Albion a welcome cushion on 26 minutes.
Another Orlandi free kick from the right flank was this time crossed in by the Spaniard and misjudged in the air by Bates at the back post, leaving Heaton no time to react as the ball somehow deflected off the inside of the keeper’s right leg and nestled into the back of his own net.
By now the Seagulls were enjoying themselves far too much for McInnes’ liking, as another Buckley break down the wing resulted in a dipping shot just over the bar from Dobbie from 25 yards, before Orlandi came even closer with an imaginative curling effort which left Heaton glued to the spot but thankfully also eluded his right-hand post.
City had already played their way back into the contest after falling behind, but were finding it increasingly difficult to make their mark with the deficit doubled.
However, that did not stop Pearson silencing the Amex with a superb rising drive diverted off target only by the top of the crossbar, with former Manchester United stopper Tomasz Kuszczak flailing at thin air in the Brighton goal.
From nowhere the hosts were under pressure again. Constant bright spark Danns, booed at every opportunity by the locals for his Crystal Palace connection, threatened to give City a lifeline when his well-placed shot beat Kuszczak but not Albion captain Gordon Greer, who slid in to clear the danger just in the nick of time.
The Robins had finished the first half brightly but should have found themselves 3-0 down early in the second, as another Buckley surge this time resulted in a header back across goal from Will Hoskins before an uncharacteristically wild final shot from Orlandi, who was unable to get his left foot over the bouncing ball.
Moments later Hoskins had an even better chance, racing through one-on-one with Heaton, who saved smartly with his legs as the former Bristol Rovers striker looked to find the gap between them.
McInnes had introduced Taylor for Davies at half-time in a bid to find the game’s potentially pivotal third goal, but it was the familiar slippery footwork of Albert Adomah that threatened to unlock the home defence when the winger wriggled between two challenges to run into the box, but was unable to locate a red shirt at the end of it.
The City boss then turned to Sam Baldock and a more attack-minded 4-4-2 formation, but chances were proving few and far between as the clock ticked down.
Taylor twice threatened to get on the end of right-wing crosses while at the other end Orlandi flashed a fierce shot across goal, but the damage had long since been done as far as the visitors were concerned.