Substitute Ashley Barnes grabbed a last-minute winner as Brighton came from behind to beat Exeter.
The hosts led at the break thanks to Richard Logan's early smart turn and shot from six yards after Brighton failed to clear a Billy Jones corner.
Glenn Murray levelled for the League One leaders when he guided his close-range header in off the post.
Ryan Harley smashed a shot against the bar for Exeter before Barnes stroked the ball home at the far post.
That strike made it five successive wins for Brighton against the Grecians, who had beaten high-flying Sheffield Wednesday 5-1 in their last home outing before Christmas.
The home side wasted little time in taking the game to the visitors, with the wily Jamie Cureton seeing his chip from fully 25 yards superbly tipped over the bar by Casper Ankergren.
But the visitors' relief was shortlived as from the resulting corner Logan chested down Matt Taylor's header before swivelling to lash the ball home.
Only Ankergren prevented Exeter from extending their lead, producing fine saves to deny Logan, Cureton and Harley.
Brighton gradually began to find their feet as the half progressed but when they did carve an opening home keeper Paul Jones did well to push Matt Sparrow's shot around the post.
Craig Noone, making his Brighton debut following his arrival from Exeter's Devon rivals Plymouth, then jinked his way into the box but Jones was equal to his left-foot effort.
Brighton began to build a head of steam after the break in their search for an equaliser as half-time substitute Chris Wood and Sparrow both bobbled shots wide.
And, after Liam Sercombe had fired narrowly over for Exeter, they finally got their reward when Murray headed in Barnes' centre via the post.
As both sides went in search of a winner, Harley went closest for Exeter when he smashed a shot against the bar from 25 yards.
But with time running out Barnes latched on to Elliott Bennett's cross to break the home side's hearts and ensure his side maintained their six-point lead at the top.
Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale told BBC Radio Devon: "It doesn't feel great. Its not very often i say it, but i do feel we were unlucky today.
"It was an exteremly open game in the last half hour and we probably looked the side most likely to score.
"So the players are disappointed and we've come away with no points. But you have to keep your head up."
Brighton manager Gus Poyet told BBC Sussex: "When you are in the position we are in and you need to win games you work right to the last minute.
"We were a bit too open at times and took a few risks. They were sure we'd have chances and they kept going. We took the right risks. Maybe last year we'd have accepted a 1-1 draw.
"Credit to the whole team and the subs, who went in with the right attitude. I'm absolutely delighted with the victory."
Live text and stats
Monday, 3 January 2011
Npower League One
06 Taylor (Archibald-Henville 46)
08 Noble (Dunne 62)
12 Cureton (Nardiello 74)
20 Logan yellow card
27 Taricco (Kishishev 73)
10 Sparrow yellow card
18 Dicker (Wood 46)
31 Noone (Barnes 63)
Ref: TannerAtt: 6,352
Attempts on target
Attempts off target
90:00+4:24 The referee signals the end of the game.
89:25 GOAL - Ashley Barnes:Exeter 1 - 2 Brighton A goal is scored by Ashley Barnes from the edge of the penalty box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Exeter 1-2 Brighton.
87:49 Gordon Greer takes a shot. Save made by Paul Jones.
87:14 Glenn Murray fouled by Troy Archibald-Henville, the ref awards a free kick. Liam Bridcutt delivers the ball from the free
kick right-footed from right channel, clearance by Troy Archibald-Henville.
85:15 Steve Tully fouled by Matthew Sparrow, the ref awards a free kick. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Ryan Harley
from right channel.
85:15 Booking Booking for Matthew Sparrow for unsporting behaviour.
83:14 Glenn Murray challenges Richard Duffy unfairly and gives away a free kick. Richard Duffy restarts play with the free kick.
81:27 Corner taken right-footed by Ryan Harley, Ryan Harley takes a shot.
80:28 Unfair challenge on Billy Jones by Ashley Barnes results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Paul Jones.
72:49 Corner taken right-footed by Elliott Bennett.
72:49 Substitution (Exeter) makes a substitution, with Daniel Nardiello coming on for Jamie Cureton.
72:49 Substitution Radostin Kishishev on for Mauricio Taricco.
72:06 Liam Sercombe gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Liam Bridcutt. Liam Bridcutt takes the direct free kick.
71:01 Corner taken right-footed by Elliott Bennett, Glenn Murray has an effort at goal from the edge of the box that misses to the
right of the target.
70:31 Scott Golbourne gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Mauricio Taricco. Direct free kick taken by Gordon Greer.
69:03 Liam Sercombe has an effort at goal from outside the area missing to the wide right of the target.
66:02 Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Elliott Bennett, Paul Jones makes a save.
65:06 Ryan Harley takes a shot. Save made by Casper Ankergren.
63:16 Assist on the goal came from Ashley Barnes.
63:16 GOAL - Glenn Murray:Exeter 1 - 1 Brighton Glenn Murray grabs a headed goal from inside the six-yard box. Exeter 1-1 Brighton.
62:04 Substitution Ashley Barnes comes on in place of Craig Noone.
61:28 Substitution James Dunne joins the action as a substitute, replacing David Noble.
60:50 Effort on goal by Liam Sercombe from just outside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the target.
60:16 Corner from the left by-line taken by Ryan Harley, Chris Wood makes a clearance.
59:34 Richard Duffy fouled by Craig Noone, the ref awards a free kick. Paul Jones takes the direct free kick.
56:05 Matthew Sparrow has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the goal.
55:26 Glenn Murray fouled by Billy Jones, the ref awards a free kick. Liam Bridcutt takes the free kick.
54:56 Gordon Greer gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Richard Logan. Billy Jones restarts play with the free kick.
53:27 Free kick awarded for a foul by Adam El-Abd on Richard Logan. Richard Duffy takes the free kick.
52:30 Richard Logan is caught offside. Casper Ankergren restarts play with the free kick.
51:51 The offside flag is raised against Elliott Bennett. Paul Jones takes the free kick.
49:58 Chris Wood has an effort at goal from outside the box which goes wide right of the goal.
48:25 Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Elliott Bennett played to the near post, David Noble makes a clearance.
46:51 Liam Sercombe takes a shot. Casper Ankergren makes a save.
46:09 Inswinging corner taken by Billy Jones from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance made by Marcos Painter.
45:29 David Noble has an effort at goal from the edge of the box that misses to the right of the target.
45:01 The referee gets the second half started.
45:01 Substitution Matthew Taylor goes off and Troy Archibald-Henville comes on.
45:01 Substitution (Brighton) makes a substitution, with Chris Wood coming on for Gary Dicker.
45:00+2:21 The whistle is blown to end the first half.
44:31 Richard Logan gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Casper Ankergren. Casper Ankergren restarts play with the
43:43 Glenn Murray fouled by Matthew Taylor, the ref awards a free kick. Matthew Sparrow restarts play with the free kick.
40:55 David Noble gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Elliott Bennett. Free kick crossed by Liam Bridcutt, clearance
made by Richard Logan.
36:48 Liam Sercombe gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Matthew Sparrow. Matthew Sparrow takes the direct free kick.
34:32 Steve Tully concedes a free kick for a foul on Marcos Painter. Casper Ankergren takes the direct free kick.
31:26 Craig Noone takes a shot. Save by Paul Jones.
29:30 Short corner taken by Elliott Bennett from the left by-line.
29:10 Matthew Sparrow takes a shot. Save made by Paul Jones.
28:17 The assistant referee flags for offside against Glenn Murray. Paul Jones takes the direct free kick.
27:55 Corner taken right-footed by Elliott Bennett from the right by-line, clearance by Matthew Taylor.
27:37 Craig Noone takes a shot. Save by Paul Jones.
26:47 Matthew Taylor gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Glenn Murray. Elliott Bennett takes the direct free kick.
25:05 Ryan Harley takes a shot. Casper Ankergren makes a save.
21:25 Corner taken by Billy Jones from the left by-line, Matthew Taylor concedes a free kick for a foul on Liam Bridcutt. Direct
free kick taken by Gordon Greer.
21:05 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Billy Jones.
20:36 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Ryan Harley played to the near post.
20:17 Corner from the right by-line taken by Billy Jones, Mauricio Taricco makes a clearance.
19:59 Jamie Cureton takes a shot. Save by Casper Ankergren.
18:15 Glenn Murray challenges Matthew Taylor unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Paul Jones.
17:34 Unfair challenge on Glenn Murray by David Noble results in a free kick. Elliott Bennett takes the direct free kick.
15:16 Richard Logan takes a shot. Save made by Casper Ankergren.
11:56 Mauricio Taricco is penalised for handball and concedes a free kick. Free kick crossed by Ryan Harley, clearance made by Marcos
10:56 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Richard Logan by Mauricio Taricco. Ryan Harley has a direct shot on goal from
the free kick, save made by Casper Ankergren.
10:04 Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Craig Noone, Paul Jones makes a save.
9:39 Craig Noone takes a inswinging corner.
7:11 Billy Jones takes the inswinging corner,
7:11 GOAL - Richard Logan:Exeter 1 - 0 Brighton Richard Logan finds the back of the net with a goal from inside the penalty box to the top right corner of the goal. Exeter
6:26 Jamie Cureton takes a shot. Save by Casper Ankergren.
5:09 Glenn Murray has shot on goal from just outside the penalty box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.
3:49 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Liam Bridcutt by Richard Logan. Casper Ankergren takes the direct free kick.
3:49 Booking Richard Logan receives a yellow card.
2:41 Glenn Murray takes a shot. Save by Paul Jones.
0:00 The match begins.
Live text and data provided by The Press Association.
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