THE thing is, this wasn’t really a FA Cup upset.
Not really. Not the way Newcastle United have been playing.
And it wouldn’t have come as a huge shock to anyone who had a glance at the teamsheet before the game.
The result won’t even get a footnote in the history of football’s oldest cup competition.
Sadly, the team’s tepid performance will have surprised few of the 1,978 travelling fans who made the long journey to the South Coast.
The only surprise was that so many applauded Alan Pardew’s side off after Saturday’s 2-0 defeat.
Few of the players deserved it.
Brighton and Hove Albion worked harder, and played better football.
Newcastle, by contrast, were listless and lifeless for much of the game, despite the best efforts of Gael Bigirimana, one of the handful of players who was able to walk off the pitch at the Amex Stadium with his head held high.
United struggled to get hold of the ball, and when they did have it, they struggled to hold on to it.
All too often passes were misplaced. Long balls aimed in the direction of lone striker Shola Ameobi were hopeful, at best.
Gus Poyet’s energetic Championship team got a grip of the third-round tie in the opening few minutes – James Perch stopped a shot on the line in the eighth minute – and didn’t let go.
Bigirimana had one of Newcastle’s few chances – the midfielder forced a save with an effort from distance – in a half dominated by the home team.
And there was an inevitability about Andrea Orlandi’s 32nd-minute opening goal, though not the finish.
A long diagonal ball found Wayne Bridge on the left wing, and his cross was audaciously flicked past Rob Elliot by Orlandi, who had his back to goal.
Pardew sent on Nile Ranger and Paul Dummett for the second half – Perch suffered a knee injury before the break – and the latter’s debut would prove to be about the only positive to come from the game.
The system changed to 4-4-2 from 4-2-3-1, but the performance didn’t get any better.
United’s fate was sealed, if it hadn’t been before, when captain Ameobi was dismissed for a second bookable offence after fouling Moreno David Lopez.
The red card left Newcastle to play almost half an hour with only 10 men.
And the only surprise was that it took Brighton so long to add to their advantage, with Will Hoskins netting their second goal three minutes from time, the substitute running on to a pass and slipping the ball under the advancing Elliot.
United were awful, abject even.
Admittedly, only Vurnon Anita and David Santon would be in Pardew’s first-choice starting XI.
But even so, Pardew – and Newcastle’s supporters – expected more from a team of highly-paid professionals. Much more, in fact.
If the club’s campaign unravels any futher, then United will be in serious trouble.
Pardew will be without the injured Perch and the suspended Ameobi at Carrow Road on Saturday, though he could have Papiss Demba Cisse and Fabricio Coloccini back.
Mathieu Debuchy will make a welcome debut, but Newcastle need two or three more through the door between now and the end of the month.
The performance against Brighton was unacceptable, but without any more players, Pardew has little choice but to indulge under-performing players.
Wearing a black and white – or burgundy – shirt is a privilege, not a right.
And players have to earn that right.
Too many haven’t done that this season.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Elliot 6; Tavernier 6, Perch 6 (Dummett, 46, 6), Williamson 5, Santon 5; Anita 6, BIGIRIMANA 7; Obertan 4 (Marveaux, 70, 6), Abeid 4 (Ranger 46, 5), Sammy Ameobi 5; Shola Ameobi 4. Subs not used: Krul, Amalfitano, Ferguson, Campbell.
BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION: Ankergren, David Lopez, Greer, El-Abd, Bridge, Bridcutt, Hammond (Crofts, 82), Orlandi (LuaLua, 59), Barnes, Mackail-Smith (Hoskins, 70), Dicker. Subs not used: Kuszczak, Dunk, Dobbie, Buckley.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Gael Bigirimana – he never gave up.
HIGHLIGHT: Paul Dummett’s Newcastle debut.
LOWLIGHT: The rest of the game – United got what they deserved.
Goals: Orlandi 33, Hoskins 87
Bookings: Hammond 22, Abeid 40, Shola Ameobi 48
Sent off: Shola Ameobi 63
Referee: Lee Probert (Gloucestershire)
Attendance: 21,740 (1,978 Newcastle)