LONDON (Reuters) - Brighton and Hove Albion eased back to the top of the Championship on Saturday after their 3-0 victory over Reading took them back ahead in their season-long, see-saw battle with Newcastle United at the summit of England’s second-tier league.
After Newcastle had been held to a surprise 2-2 draw at home by Bristol City, Brighton cashed in on the slip-up with goals from Sam Baldock, Jamie Murphy and Anthony Knockaert to earn a decisive win over fellow promotion chasers Reading.
Newcastle had appeared to be on course for a shock defeat at their St James’ Park fortress when struggling Bristol City went two up in just 21 minutes, 37-year-old Aaron Wilbraham heading home and then David Cotterill cashing in on sloppy defending.
Yet Korey Smith’s own goal just before the hour and Ciaran Clark’s close-range header, his third goal of the season, with eight minutes left, enabled the Magpies to stretch their unbeaten league run to seven matches.
It extended their lead to two points before Chris Hughton’s Brighton won the late game to move up to 71 points - one clear of Rafa Benitez’s men - and set up perfectly Tuesday’s eagerly-awaited clash between the top two at the Seagulls’ Amex Stadium.
Brighton’s win also saw them move six points clear of third-placed Huddersfield Town, who were held 1-1 at Barnsley and deprived of a seventh straight league win largely by brilliant goalkeeping from the home side’s Adam Davies.
In the day’s early match at Elland Road, Chris Wood’s 23rd goal of the season in all competitions sealed a 1-0 win for Leeds United over Yorkshire promotion rivals Sheffield Wednesday.
As crucial for Leeds as Wood’s goal, which made him joint-top scorer in the Championship with Newcastle’s Dwight Gayle, was Robert Green’s second-half penalty save from Jordan Rhodes as Leeds moved ahead of Reading into fourth place.
Reporting by Ian Chadband,; Editing by Neville Dalton