Embarrassed Leeds United managed to find a new low in their dreadful season as they were well beaten at Brighton in front of the Sky cameras.
Four down at half-time after a set of calamitous pieces of defending, they eventually lost 4-0 and with one win in 11 league games look now to be heading for a relegation fight in the remaining months of the campaign.
Another defeat to bottom of the table Bolton Wanderers on Saturday and United will be back in trouble and just as likely to be looking for a new head coach if the past record of owner Massimo Cellino is anything to go by.
It was an extraordinary first half as initially there was no sign of what was to come. Brighton were comfortably held at arms length and it was Leeds who looked the better side with Souleymane Doukara having an early penalty shout, probably correctly turned down, and Alex Mowatt seeing a free-kick go over after flicking off the defensive wall.
But all that changed in the 18th minute when Liam Rosenior got forward from left-back and forced his way into the box where he was brought down by Scott Wootton, who had been recalled at right-back by head coach Steve Evans.
Tomer Hemed cockily chipped the ball down the middle to score from the spot to start the Whites’ tale of woe.
Brighton suddenly woke up and Marco Silvestri was forced to save a low shot from Kayal two minutes later.
Leeds’ relief was temporary as Sol Bamba gave the ball away in his own half, Sam Baldock burst forward and played a one-two with Dale Stephens to get in the box. He tried to slide the ball across, but it took an unfortunate touch off Liam Cooper and rolled into the net to make it 2-0.
Doukara had a shot deflected wide as United looked to respond, but they were still not defending well and Silvestri had to come to the rescue to save from Jamie Murphy after he easily got in behind the visitors’ back four.
Toumani Diagouraga lashed a shot wide from the edge of the area before Brighton extended their lead through Hemed’s second, which came after further poor defending.
Anthony Knockaert made a diagonal run to a lofted free-kick with no-one going with him and when Bamba desperately got back to end the initial danger he could only knock the ball straight to Hemed who had a simple chance to make it 3-0.
Leeds did keep going for a while, but lacked conviction when half chances fell to Lewis Cook and Cooper.
Their misery was not over as Brighton made it 4-0 on 38 minutes when centre-back Lewis Dunk came forward to power in a header from a corner.
Evans took Wootton off at half-time, bringing on winger Mustapha Carayol and moving Lewie Coyle back to right-back after the youngster had started on the right side of midfield with Stuart Dallas injured.
United did improve a little, with Mowatt showing good control to get into the box only to then smash his shot well over.
He then hit a free-kick over from the edge of the area before Lewis Cook finally managed the side’s first shot on target, a 20-yard shot that was straight at home keeper David Stockdale.
At least United were showing some pride and they fashioned another half chance following a good run by Carayol, but Doukara sent his shot on the turn wide.
Coyle got forward to fire a shot wide from the edge of the box before Brighton had a rare second half attack that ended with Baldock’s tame shot comfortably saved by Silvestri.
Home sub Jiri Skalak sprinted clear despite looking offside, but hesitated, allowing Bamba to get back and take the ball off him in the box.
There were no further goals and it was a tame finish and a very flat second half after all the damage had been done in the opening 38 minutes, helping Brighton to their biggest ever win over Leeds.
(Hemed 18, pen, 28, Cooper og 22, Dunk 38)
Leeds United 0
Monday, February 29, 2016
Sky Bet Championship
Brighton: Stockdale, Bruno, Dunk, Goldson, Rosenior, Knockaert, Stephens, Kayal (Sidwell 78), Murphy, Hemed (Wilson 78), Baldock (Skalak 74).
Leeds: Silvestri, Wootton (Carayol 45), Cooper, Bamba, Taylor, Coyle, Diagouraga (Murphy 84), Bridcutt, Mowatt, Cook, Doukara (Erwin 75).
Referee: Peter Bankes