Brighton secured qualification for European football for the first time in their history with a 3-1 win over Southampton.
A win, due to their superior goal difference, means they are all but set to finish in the Premier League top six which guarantees Europa League qualification. Aston Villa would need to beat them on the final day and benefit from a 16-goal swing to overtake them. To mathematically secure their place, Brighton need just one point from their remaining games with Manchester City and Villa.
Evan Ferguson put them on their way with a first-half double before Pascal Gross wrapped up the points after already-relegated Southampton threatened a comeback when Mohamed Elyounoussi scored and Theo Walcott had a goal ruled out for offside which would have made it 2-2.
Exactly 40 years since their only major final appearance in the FA Cup when defeated by Manchester United, this was a historic day for a football club that avoided relegation from the football league on the final day of the 96/97 season with a 1-1 draw that sent Hereford down on goal difference. Their rise has been astronomical under the ownership of Tony Bloom.
Brighton: Steele (7), Veltman (7), Dunk (7), Colwill (7), Estupinan (7), Gross (7), Caicedo (7), Mac Allister (8), Mitoma (6), Ensico (7), Ferguson (9)
Subs: Welbeck (7), Undav (7), Buonanotte (7)
Southampton: McCarthy (6), Walker-Peters (6), Bree (6), Lyanco (6), Bednarek (6), Lavia (6), Ward-Prowse (7), Alcaraz (5), Walcott (7), Aribo (5), Elyounoussi (7)
Subs: Livramento (7), Sulemana (6), Doyle (6), Armstrong (6), Ballard (6)
Player of the match: Evan Ferguson
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For Saints, who have verbally agreed a deal to bring in Russell Martin as their new boss next season, this was another miserable day as their season ends with a whimper.
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How Brighton booked their European ticket...
Southampton, who arrived on the back of their relegation being confirmed, were constantly mocked by their own fans in the first half, sarcastically cheering a spell of possession that actually ended with Kaoru Mitoma hitting the post for Brighton.
It was one of two chances the Japanese winger missed having curled an equally glorious chance wide moments earlier. All the dynamism and energy was coming from the Brighton players and although Carlos Alcaraz fired wide for Saints, you sensed a home goal was coming.
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- Brighton made five changes from the defeat at Newcastle with Levi Colwill, Joel Veltman, Alexis Mac Allister, Julio Enciso and Evan Ferguson all returning.
- Ruben Selles made three changes from their defeat at Fulham with James Bree - making his first start under this manager at right-back - Joe Aribo and Mohamed Elyounoussi all being given chances to impress.
Ferguson grabbed it after some sloppy play in midfield from Saints allowed Alexis Mac Allister to waltz into the box and feed the striker. His effort was full of power and found a way past the clutches of Alex McCarthy, who should've done better.
The dye was now cast on the game with Brighton keeping possession with such assurance and purpose. That said, it was yet more poor decision making from the visitors that set Brighton away for their second goal as Mitoma raced away after a turnover and crossed for Ferguson to slide home his second.
It should have set the tone for a party-like atmosphere after the break - but Southampton found their stride. Elyounoussi was on hand to flick home a perfect James Ward-Prowse delivery and for the next few minutes, Brighton wobbled.
Saints thought they had scored an astonishing equaliser when Walcott scampered through on goal and beat Jason Steele with a classy finish. However, with the game all set to be restarted, an offside check showed that Walcott was marginally ahead of the play - and the Brighton fans could relax.
That moment changed the momentum back in the favour of Roberto De Zerbi's team who restored their two-goal cushion when Gross fired home a low drive. From that moment on it was typical Brighton, who kept the ball with real aplomb and somehow failed to add to their tally with McCarthy kept very busy.
The full-time whistle signalled that Brighton are going on a European tour. Exciting times ahead.
De Zerbi: Victory can be dangerous, we have to work harder
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi said: "I'm very happy, a historic result - we're not finished yet, we need one point for Europa League. Even though Conference League is a important competition, the Europa is more important.
"Tony Bloom is very happy, firstly he is a fan. We have to organise a new squad, organise a new season. Build a new squad. We don't need too many players but we need to compete in Europe and Premier League. It will be tougher, we'll lose some big players. It's right though, they deserve to play for other teams. We have to be ready to bring big players into the club. We have to arrive ready to compete.
"I'm looking forward to competing. We will play to win the competition, to play in our style, to keep the ball. We can lose the game, but we can't lose our style - we can't lose our DNA. It was a crucial day for us and we didn't lose our game. We have played with ideas, quality. We played well. It's difficult to keep our DNA in this moment. In Europe if we play against big teams, we will not lose our style.
"Look at the Premier League, you can qualify for Europe then the next season you can be bottom of the table. We have to keep this level and build a squad to improve our level. I think Tony (Bloom) doesn't want to lose this level. We have to work harder in transfer market and organise better and better and better. Victory can be dangerous. To celebrate is normal but you have to work harder when you are winning.
"Our target inside the dressing room was Champions League. In March we was playing fantastic but we lost points to Fulham and Brentford - we lost too many points for that target. It's good for the players to fix a big target, it's dangerous as if you speak about Champions League and Europa League, then journalist will remember my words. But inside the dressing room it is a positive thing as we have improved mentality and confidence."
Selles unaware of any decision to appoint Martin
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Saints boss Ruben Selles said: "I know nothing. It hasn't changed anything in my position since we spoke on Friday. I have been respectful with the club to use all my knowledge to keep this team and the club together. I expect if something goes on like that before the Liverpool game, someone will come to me to clarify to me.
"I don't need to go to nobody. Everyone knows who I am and where I am and that I am the face of the club for the last three months and the reference for everybody. I expect that to happen for the last game against Liverpool.
"I didn't know about the update until Jordan [press officer] told me. I have a clear idea that I want to stay here until the Liverpool game, if something changes, that's not my decision. My focus has been on this week, a hard week for us, to prepare and to perform and try to win this game. I'm not worried about my future, my contract expires at the end of the season and what the club decides will be the right decision. I've already made my points a couple of months ago about this scenario so it's not my decision. I have no control of it, so I won't spend time on it."
The final day of the Premier League season is on May 28 with every game kicking off at 4.30pm. Free match highlights will be published across Sky Sports' digital platforms shortly after full-time.
Brighton and Hove Albion Manchester City
Wednesday 24th May 7:00pm
Brighton next host Manchester City on Wednesday - live on Sky Sports - before finishing their season at Aston Villa.
Already-relegated Southampton host Liverpool in their final Premier League game for at least another year.
Opta stats: Freaky Ferguson
- Ferguson has scored six goals in the Premier League this season, three more than any other teenager. There have been 19 goals scored by teenagers in the competition this season, with Brighton accounting for over half (Ferguson 6, Enciso 3, Buonanotte 1).
- Over the last 10 Premier League campaigns (2013-14 onwards), only Christian Eriksen (28) has provided more assists at set plays than Southampton's Ward-Prowse (24).
- Groß has been directly involved in 60 goals for Brighton in the Premier League (26 goals, 34 assists), which is 22 more than any other player for the club. Groß scored his 26th goal for Brighton in the competition today, going level with Neal Maupay and Glenn Murray as the club's joint-highest scoring player in the Premier League.