Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on target yet again, but we had to settle for a draw on Boxing Day.
The Premier League’s top scorer made it 15 for the season with a fine finish from Alex Lacazette’s excellent assist, but Jurgen Locadia pegged us back with an equaliser on the break.
It wasn’t a fair reflection of the first half - but it was probably a fair reflection of the match.
Fast starts have been hard to come by this season but we got one here. Indeed, at times we were at our fluent best with Aubameyang, Lacazette and Mesut Ozil in sync ahead of a three-pronged midfield base.
Lacazette was pretty much unplayable in the first 20 minutes, spinning in behind, dropping deep and holding off markers at will.
It was his tenacity that won the ball back inside the Brighton box, and his strength that repelled three defenders before he nudged a pass to Aubameyang. Lacazette’s strike partner obliged with a delicious first-time finish into the top corner.
Aubameyang would have scored earlier had it not been for Mat Ryan.
The Brighton goalkeeper back-pedalled furiously to tip over one deft lob, and he saved his team after Aubameyang’s opener with a smart stop to his right after our goalscorer latched onto a through-ball from Lucas Torreira.
We looked good - but we let it slip when Brighton struck on the counter-attack.
Stephan Lichtsteiner tried to deal with a long pass over the top but the ball skimmed off his head and fell kindly for Locadia. Bernd Leno raced out to challenge Locadia but he was side-stepped, and that made the finish a simple one.
Brighton probably didn’t deserve to be level but, in fairness, they gave us problems after the equaliser, and even more after the break.
Davy Propper headed wide and then fired just off target, Locadia rolled a shot past the far post and Solly March lobbed Leno - only to clear the crossbar.
We struggled to create chances of our own, but almost stole the points when a clearance hit Alex Iwobi and span agonisingly wide.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
This draw moves us into fifth place in the Premier League - two points behind Chelsea.
We’re six points behind Manchester City after their defeat at Leicester.
Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi both went into this game with four bookings to their names, meaning another yellow card would rule them out of Saturday’s trip to table-toppers Liverpool.
But both started here, a sign of Unai Emery’s determination to take three points on the south coast before he even thinks about Anfield.
Guendouzi took up an interesting position in a reinforced midfield three, stationed slightly to the left while Torreira and Xhaka resumed their partnership.
Aubameyang and Lacazette were paired together up front, with Ozil in behind them.
We finish our 2018 fixtures on Saturday with a trip to Anfield to face the league leaders, Liverpool.
Then we’re back on home soil on New Year’s Day when Fulham visit the Emirates.
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