- Albion are beaten for the fifth time this season
- Peter Whittingham (2), Anthony Pilkington and Lex Immers secure Cardiff the points
- Dale Stephens on target for the Seagulls
- Brighton’s five-match unbeaten run comes to an end
Brighton & Hove Albion were beaten for only the fifth time this season, after a 4-1 defeat to a clinical Cardiff City side and were denied a chance to move up into the top two.
Peter Whittingham’s brace and a goal each from Anthony Pilkington and Lex Immers gave the play-off chasing hosts all three points, while Dale Stephens scored a consolation goal for Albion.
Chris Hughton made three changes to the side that drew 0-0 at Hull City on Tuesday, as Andrew Crofts and Bobby Zamora came in for Beram Kayal and Tomer Hemed.
Jiri Skalak was also given his first Albion start at the expense of Jamie Murphy.
Cardiff created the first meaningful chance of the game after Inigo Calderon was penalised for a challenge on Tom Lawrence on the edge of the box. Whittingham stepped up to take the subsequent set-piece, but David Stockdale made a comfortable save.
But Whittingham broke the deadlock just a few moments later after latching onto a through ball and coolly poked the ball past Stockdale in the 16th minute.
The lead was doubled three minutes’ later after Pilkington cut inside off the right flank and saw his deflected shot beat Stockdale.
Calderon tested David Marshall in the Cardiff goal with a curling shot from distance and despite appearing to take a touch from the keeper, a goal kick was awarded.
Immers made matters worse for the Seagulls on the half-hour mark after he latched onto a loose ball in the area and fired a first-time strike beyond Stockdale to make it 3-0.
Skalak delivered a superb cross into the box to find Zamora, but the striker stretched to meet the ball and slid an attempt wide of Marshall’s goal.
Lawrence instigated another nervy moment for the Albion defence when his shot from distance was spilled by Stockdale before the danger was cleared.
Knockaert showed some neat footwork down the other end to work his way into a shooting position and forced Marshall into a good reaction save.
Hughton added fresh legs to the squad in the second half by bringing on Hemed for Calderon and Liam Rosenior for Steve Sidwell, with Rosenior making his first Albion appearance since November.
But it could have easily been 4-0 when Immers curled his shot from a central position just inches wide of the post.
Knockaert drilled in a cross towards Crofts, but the latter glanced his header wide at the near post.
The Seagulls were rewarded for a positive start to the second half, after Dale Stephens headed past Marshall from Skalak’s superb delivery into the box to make it 3-1 in the 55th minute.
Albion raced forward in numbers in a bid to reduce the deficit to one, but Hemed’s effort was blocked by the Cardiff defence.
Knockaert also had a golden chance to score a second Brighton goal, but fired over the target from inside the box.
Just as a potential comeback looked on the cards the Bluebirds were awarded a penalty when Connor Goldson was penalised for a challenge on Pilkington.
Whittingham fired the subsequent spot-kick into the top right-hand corner, with Stockdale diving in the opposite direction to make it 4-1 after 66 minutes.
Hemed put in a dangerous ball across the face of goal in the closing stages, but could not find an Albion team-mate as Cardiff claimed an emphatic win.