Brighton's record in the FA Cup up to 1982 was apalling. The only win over a club from a higher division since World War II was the defeat of Division 2 club Chesterfield 2-1 at the Goldstone in 1951, and this was the only giant-killing by Albion in this competition for 50 years from 1933 to 1983.
Since the War (up to 1983) they had been knocked out by non-league clubs
Bedford T., Walton & Hersham and Leatherhead, as well as Division 4
clubs Swansea T. and Northampton T. In their Division 3 days from 1962
before their rise in 1972 they hardly ever reached Round 3 to play a big
club, except in 1967 when they
entertained Chelsea in Round 4. In the season 1981-82 they went down
to Division 2 club Oxford United 0-3 at the Goldstone.
Round 3 saw an ideal draw with the visit of big name Division 2 club Newcastle U., a team with a poor FA Cup record in recent years. Newcastle gained a deserved draw 1-1 at the Goldstone, before 17,741 supporters, and after outplaying Brighton at St. James Park, Peter Ward, on loan from Nottingham Forest, scored his last ever goal for Brighton to pinch their first away win of the season before 32,134 spectators.
Manchester City (Division 1 relegated with Brighton) were the visitors to the Goldstone in Round 4 and lowly Brighton could only attract 16,804 spectators to a match when they outplayed City in a 4-0 victory.
Round 5 saw the expected end of Brighton's Cup run as they had to visit League Champions and leaders Liverpool at Anfield, who had not lost on their own ground since Brighton beat them 1-0 the previous season. Brighton had not won an away League game this season and their last League win on their travels was at Liverpool in March 1982. Liverpool had not lost at home in the FA Cup since 1974, an event at the time that occurred about once a decade. The game was played mostly in Brighton's penalty area. Gerry Ryan broke away and put Albion 1-0 up. Craig Johnston scored an equaliser with a scissor kick. Phil Neal missed a penalty and Jimmy Case scored a late winner for Brighton in another breakway 2-1. The attendance was 44,868.
Middle of the table Division 1 Norwich City side visited the Goldstone for the Quarter Finals and were a great danger to bottom of the table Albion, despite Brighton having beaten them 3-0 earlier in the season. Brighton won comfortably 2-0 before a capacity crowd of 28,800, with the gates closed before kick off.
You need luck in the FA Cup and Brighton missed Arsenal who would play Manchester United in the other semi-final and faced Division 2 side Sheffield Wednesday instead. The match was played on a sunny day at Highbury and in an even game before a 54,627 crowd, the sixth largest ever to watch Brighton and the third largest at the time. Jimmy Case scored a swerving shot to put Brighton 1-0 up and this was the crucial moment of the match Wednesday fought back strongly and deservedly equalised, but failed to push their advantage and it was Michael Robinson who scored the winner 2-1.
Cup Final tickets were available only to season ticket holders and none went on general sale. Brighton's allocation was 25,000 and although regular fans could get a ticket, many of the fair weather supporters missed the trip to Wembley.
Steve Foster missed the Saturday final through suspension. Brighton played much better than their bottom of their table position indicated. Gordon Smith scored a soft header for a 1-0 lead in an exciting first half. Brighton looked reasonably comfortable until full back Chris Ramsay got injured after a clash with Norman Whiteside. He was unable to challenge Frank Stapleton's far post equaliser, 1-1. Then Ray Wilkins put United into a 2-1 lead with a rare and spectacular swerving shot. Albion defender Gary Stevens popped up in the last minute of normal time to score his first goal of the season and equalise 2-2. The most dramatic moment of the most exciting Cup Final for years came in the very last moment of extra time, when Gordon Smith was foiled by Gary Bailey, when he was expected to score.
Brighton got a larger ticket allocation of 30,000 tickets for the replay
before a reduced capacity of 92,000, so there were many more fans for this
match. Steve Foster returned and Brighton took the game to United and created
as many chances but lost 0-4 for the largest losing margin at Wembley.
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