By Easter 1980/81, Brighton were in serious trouble at the foot of the First Division. A dreadful 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough took the Seagulls to 20th position on 11th April. Albion had won just two of their previous 13 League matches. The remaining fixtures were Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Sunderland and Leeds United. However, even four victories in the last four games did not guaranteed survival.
On the eve of the game at relegated Crystal Palace, Albion boss Alan Mullery blasted his side:
“I know I can get the sack if we are relegated. I have been let down by the players, and if I go I won’t be the only one to leave. A lack of basic commitment is the main reason for our current plight. This situation was totally avoidable. I have done all I can this season, but in the end results depend on players. The players of Brighton have just not produced the goods.”
One of the few positives was that their arch rivals from South London were in an even bigger state of disarray than the Seagulls. Nevertheless, Mullery struck a note of caution:
“Palace will raise their game, because they want to take us down with them. There is a great rivalry between the two clubs, and that situation will never change. A draw will not be enough for us, and if the players don’t battle we have no chance.”
An Albion team meeting before the match had Alan Mullery threatening to run the players over if he saw them in the street if they had the club relegated! That, and sticking John Gregory in midfield seemed to do the trick as the Seagulls lorded it at Selhurst Park in an emphatic 3-0 victory:
In the Daily Express it said:
“Brighton, with Mark Lawrenson, Brian Horton and two-goal John Gregory, made Palace look a Sunday parks team.”