Kazenga Lua Lua's goal three minutes from time meant Nigel Pearson's Leicester City had to settle for a point in a 1-1 power Championship draw with play-off rivals Brighton at the AMEX Stadium on Saturday.
A tense match, in which City had hit the bar through Andy King in the first half, saw the deadlock broken by a determined Leicester in the 72nd minute, when Matty James latched onto Liam Moore’s long throw to drill the ball home and give The Foxes a great chance of three points.
But despite an excellent display from City in front of a vocal 2,000-strong Blue Army, Lua Lua stole a late point for the hosts when he cut inside off the left to fire a low shot past Kasper Schmeichel for 1-1.
There were five changes for The Foxes going into the clash with Brighton, as skipper Wes Morgan, Moore, Ben Marshall, Danny Drinkwater and Jeff Schlupp all earned places in the starting line-up.
Chris Wood, Zak Whitbread, Ritchie De Laet, Lloyd Dyer and Anthony Knockaert were the five to miss out as Pearson opted for a 4-3-3 formation, with Schlupp and Marshall flanking David Nugent in attack.
Gus Poyet’s Seagulls made two changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Charlton by including Andrea Orlandi and Dean Hammond as they also opted for an attack-minded 4-3-3 formation, spearheaded by in-form Argentinian striker Leonardo Ulloa.
City began the game brightly, with King winning a ball in midfield in a move that led to Nugent bearing down on goal from the left, but City’s top scorer took a tumble and referee Jonathan Moss awarded him a yellow card for simulation.
Brighton boss Poyet then made his first change in just the 11th minutes – bringing former Newcastle midfielder Lua Lua for Will Buckley, as James struck a powerful half volley over the bar following a corner.
King then followed that up just before the 20-minute mark, firing wide from the right side of the box after a nice give and go with Marshall.
Nugent then tested former Manchester United and West Brom goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak with a low effort from 20 yards as City were able to frustrate the hosts and pin them back in their own half for short periods.
But on the half hour mark, Brighton hit back. A corner from the left was met with a vicious header from Inigo Calderon, which was thankfully cleared off the line by Drinkwater for Liam Bridcutt to fire a shot over the bar from 20 yards.
The hosts looked to build on that passage of play and almost took the lead moments later. David Lopez picked up a short corner on the right and chipped a ball to the far post for Ulloa, but he headed over with the goal at his mercy.
However the best chance of the match fell City’s way in the 35th minute, more specifically to King.
Schlupp had done brilliantly to steal possession on the left, and played a low ball back to King in the box, who side-footed it goalwards only for Polish ‘keeper Kuszczak to tip the effort onto the crossbar and out of play.
Lua Lua and King then exchanged chances for either side, but both ‘keepers were up to the challenge as City, who had arguably the better of a close half went in 0-0 at the break after Schlupp had one final effort saved by the feet of Kuszczak.
In the second half the first opportunity again fell to City, when a long diagonal picked out Konchesky on the left. The full back then drilled in a low cross for Schlupp, who made contact along with Brighton skipper Gordon Greer; resulting in the ball sitting up for Moore at the back stick, but he fired over.
The chance seemed to give The Foxes, supported by 2,000 travelling members of the Blue Army, a lift, and they again went close in the 50th minute – Schlupp teeing King up for a curling right footed effort inside the box that Kuszczak pushed wide.
The 54th minute then brought about Brighton’s second change – two-time La Liga winner and ex-Valencia man Vicente coming on to replaced David Lopez.
It brought about a reaction from the crowd and seemed to do the trick for the Seagulls on the pitch, as the former Spain international beat his man on the right and played a ball to Calderon to shoot, but Morgan made a timely block.
Pearson responded with the introduction of De Laet in a right sided midfield role at the expense of Marshall, as the game shifted back and forth as the hour mark passed.
With 20 minutes left, a golden chance for Brighton came and went. The lively substitute Lua Lua got the better of Moore at right back and was able to cut a left footed ball back across the box for Ulloa, but the striker’s sliced finish trickled past the post.
Then in the 72nd minute, all City’s hard work and endeavor paid off, as they sent the visiting supporters wild with celebration by taking the lead through James.
Moore launched a long throw in from the right, which was flicked on at the near post by De Laet and James was first to react, controlling the ball before driving it left footed into the bottom corner from eight yards.
A double change followed for The Foxes as industrious shifts for Schlupp and Nugent came to an end with the introduction of strikers Harry Kane and Wood, while Orlandi was replaced by George Barker for Brighton.
Still dangerous, the hosts threatened mainly through Lua Lua on the Brighton left, but a couple of smart interceptions and good hands from Schmeichel were enough to quell the danger.
But City were determined to put the game to bed, and might have had one of either Kane, Wood or Koncheksy been able to beat Kuszczak with consecutive efforts from range.
The home side attempted to mount a comeback, and unfortunately for City they produced the goods with just three minutes left, when Lua Lua cut inside from the left and fired right footed into the bottom corner to make it 1-1 - a frustrating end to an encouraging display from Pearson's Foxes.
Brighton (4-3-3): Kuszczak, Calderon, Greer, Upson, Bridge, Bridcutt, Lopez (Vicente 54), Hammond, Buckley (Lua Lua 11), Ulloa, Orlandi (Barker 78)
Unused subs: Ankergren, El-Abd, Painter, Crofts
Goal: Lua Lua 87
City (4-3-3): Schmeichel, Moore, Morgan (c), Keane, Konchesky, King, James, Drinkwater, Marshall (De Laet 60), Nugent (Kane 72), Schlupp (Wood 72)
Unused subs: Dyer, Logan, Wellens, Knockaert
Goal: James 72
Referee: Jonathan Moss