David Lopez’s first-half penalty was enough to reignite Albion’s play-off hopes and give the Seagulls their first away league win of 2014.
Both sides gave whole-hearted displays in a physical affair but it was Oscar Garcia’s men who found the all-important breakthrough from the spot, as they responded perfectly to last week’s league defeat to Wigan Athletic and FA Cup exit at Hull City.
Ed Upson almost put the hosts ahead when he curled an in-swinging free-kick towards the near post that landed on the roof of Tomasz Kuszczak’s goal, while the Pole was in perfect position to catch Shaun Williams’s left-foot effort.
Dale Stephens dropped a shot wide while Leo Ulloa uncharacteristically miscued his far-post header from Bruno’s cross as the Seagulls started to show more attacking prowess.
Albion then came close to taking the lead as Andrea Orlandi’s inch-perfect cross found Ulloa only for keeper David Forde to deny the Seagulls talisman.
But, on 39 minutes the breakthrough arrived; debutant Jesse Lingard broke into the Lions box and went down under pressure from Danny Shittu to win a hotly disputed penalty. The Millwall faithful complained, as did Shittu who received a booking for his protests, but it made no difference as the ever-reliable Lopez stepped up to put Oscar’s men ahead from 12-yards.
Albion could have extended their lead on the stroke of half-time as Ulloa broke clear and cut back for Lingard, but the Manchester United loanee was denied by an excellent block from Shane Lowry.
Swiftly after the restart David was just off target with his low cross for Orlandi, while Martyn Woolford dragged wide from distance up the other end. Jermaine Easter then came a lot closer to levelling matters as he struck the bar from close range.
There was plenty of passion and desire being shown by both sides, but clear-cut chances were proving hard to conjure up, with Jake Forster-Caskey’s drive being blocked and Scott McDonald screwing well wide for the hosts in the two best openings.
Will Buckley attempted an audacious late chip that dropped safely over before Sam Garvan fizzled a long-distance effort narrowly over, and with that the Lions’ hopes of a late equaliser ended.