Optimism swelled inside the stadium before kick-off.
Steel and concrete can turn even the most brow-beaten supporters sanguine. With more than two-thirds of the seats at Brighton's new home taken by season-ticket holders and one of the Football League's most potent strikers, Craig Mackail-Smith, recently lured to the club, the Seagulls have returned to the Championship in fine health.
Those supporters who backed Brighton through the darkest of times – a decade and a half of nomadism and potential financial ruin – have earned some joy. And they left beaming after their side fought back from a goal down to complete an enthralling victory against Doncaster Rovers.
Another summer signing, Will Buckley, scored Albion's first league goal at the Amex in the 83rd minute – a crisp strike from the edge of the area that darted inside the near post – before netting the winner with a calm side-footed finish during eight minutes of injury time.
To the chagrin of the home fans, Doncaster's Billy Sharp will go down as the first scorer at the stadium in a competitive fixture for his scrambled effort shortly before the interval. But that statistic will be quickly forgotten; Brighton's performance was far more memorable. Brisk, creative and dangerous, they had the beating of their visitors across the park even though the visitors had, according to the scoreline, the beating of them for much of the contest. .
The Brighton manager, Gus Poyet, was relieved, having been concerned that the pre-match party atmosphere could deflect his players' attentions from the task at hand. "There were too many celebrations, too many happy people, too many flags," he said. "At the end of the day what was needed was the points, so I'm pleased we got them. It was a great show. The fans want to be entertained and they were."
The scoreline could easily have been greater in Brighton's favour. They must show greater precision, particularly at home, if they are to excel in the second tier. The Championship is, after all, a carousel, and no sense of place or permanence can compensate for deficiencies on the field.
Mackail-Smith joined Ashley Barnes up front in what looks a promising partnership. With 55 goals between them last term they will doubtless trouble any opposition this season. Barnes ought to have scored with half an hour gone, but he waited needlessly for the ball to settle inside the box allowing the Doncaster goalkeeper, Gary Wood, to stifle his shot and the defender Richard Naylor to clear. Mackail-Smith went equally close barely a minute later when his powerful header from a left-wing cross clipped the roof of the net.
By that time, Poyet's frustration had boiled over. The Uruguayan was sent to the stands for kicking a drinks bottle and berating the officials after a foul on loanee Kazenga LuaLua. "That's me and I'm not going to change," he said. "If I change and keep quiet I [should] go home and play golf instead."
From the stands, Poyet had a painfully clear view of the opening goal. Sharp's shot squirmed into the net via the inside of the post after Casper Ankergren had almost turned it wide. However, Sharp was ultimately one of two Rovers players to leave the field on a stretcher.
Buckley's equaliser in the 83rd minute presaged a manic finale. His winning strike – a cool, slotted finish when one-on-one with the keeper – sent the home fans delirious.
As rosy as the prognosis is for Brighton, it is equally ominous for Rovers, who fell from being play-off contenders to relegation candidates last spring with a run of three wins in 24 games, and have started this season blighted by injuries and with few new faces in their squad.
That the talk of Doncaster over the summer was the sacking and then reinstatement of Donny the Dog – who "disgraced" the club by posing in saucy pictures with her dog costume for charity – is symptomatic of the turbulence at Keepmoat. Rovers fans are looking down just as the Seagulls are starting to soar.
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