Manager Nuno Espirito Santo says now is the right time for Wolves to “build and improve players” after his youthful side came back from a goal down to beat 10-man Brighton.
Morgan Gibbs-White, 21, scored a dramatic last-minute winner for the home side, who trailed at the break but benefited from Lewis Dunk’s sending-off early in the second to take control of the game.
Dunk had earlier headed the visitors in front from a corner, but was punished for pulling back Fabio Silva after the forward had darted goal-side of him.
Substitute Adama Traore made a big impact on the game, providing a threat and scoring the equaliser after a one-two in the box with Silva.
Gibbs-White’s first Premier League goal sealed the points for a Wolves side that contained five players under 21 and three teenagers, and which had an average age of just 24 years and 209 days.
“All the young players did well,” Santo told BBC Sport. “It’s the right moment to try and build and improve players.
“I thought the reaction of my players in the second half was very good. In the first half we were really disappointed.
“The red card made a big difference. But we deserved the win.”
To rub salt into Brighton’s wounds, striker Neal Maupay received his side’s second red card of the afternoon after the final whistle following a confrontation with referee Jonathan Moss.
The win takes Wolves to 45 points, with Brighton remaining 10 points ahead of 18th-placed Fulham and needing one more result to go their way to cement their Premier League place for 2021-22.
Wolves given glimpse of bright future
After a promotion, two seventh-place finishes and a European adventure, this campaign represents a regression for Wolves, its low point the 4-0 hammering they suffered at the hands of Burnley in their last home game.
There are mitigating circumstances, not least the extra demands a Covid-affected 18 months has placed on what is a relatively small squad and the loss of main striker Raul Jimenez to a fractured skull in late November.
It is becoming increasingly clear that some of the Wanderers players are reaching the end of their natural shelf life at the club, but Nuno is now discovering that some of his younger charges have the potential to succeed them.
They were somewhat overawed in the first half against an experienced and physically domineering Brighton, but were afforded greater room to assert themselves in the second and show a level of composure and character that will please their boss.
Silva has struggled at times this season, but has shown signs of late that he is adapting to the division and he played a key role in the second half, firstly drawing the foul from Dunk that altered the game.
He then played a neat one-two with Traore to set the winger up for his equalising goal.
Gibbs-White is another who has shown flashes of his ability, but not quite the consistency required.
The 21-year-old started the campaign on loan at Swansea in the Championship, but now back with his parent club he can start to build on his undoubted promise.
After a few weeks where it has looked like Wolves were drifting to the conclusion of the season, they now have the first hints of a brighter future.
Brighton undone by sending-off
On results and league position alone, you could be forgiven for thinking little progress has been made at Brighton in their four Premier League seasons, with Sunday’s result another negative to add to the list.
However, there has been a clear philosophy shift at the club and signs that Graham Potter is building something more robust and tactically intelligent than his managerial predecessors at the Amex Stadium.
With a full complement of players, they were the better side at Molineux, comfortably mixing a modern desire to play out from the back with older-school qualities of towering goalscoring headers from domineering centre-backs.
Even with 10 men, they were well-drilled enough to restrict the home side to half-chances for much of the second half.
Losing to two well taken goals having played for more than 30 minutes a man down is not something to be unduly concerned by, even if it means a delay in sealing their inevitable survival.
More concerning is the loss of discipline from Maupay at full-time, meaning Albion will now be without their leading striker as well as their captain through suspension.
“I’m disappointed with the result, disappointed we couldn’t get the three points,” said Brighton boss Graham Potter. “Until you are safe you have to keep fighting.
“We gave everything and it wasn’t to be. It (the red card) certainly made it a lot more difficult. We were good, we were deservedly in the lead and looking to add to that.
“I think Neal’s red card was for speaking to the ref, he is frustrated, I don’t know what’s been said but he needs to be able to to handle that better.
“That’s the challenge, it’s not easy to deal with defeat and disappointment but we have to. We lose him so it’s not positive for us.”
Wolves claim first top-flight win over Seagulls
- In what was their 12th such meeting, Brighton lost to Wolves in the top flight for the very first time, having won seven and drawn four of their first 11 top-tier league clashes.
- Since Wolves returned to the Premier League in 2018, only Manchester United (54) have recovered more points from losing positions in the competition than Nuno’s side (51).
- No side has dropped more points from winning positions in this season’s Premier League than Brighton (23, level with Southampton).
- Since they returned to the Premier League in 2018, only Liverpool (7) have scored more winning goals in the 90th minute or later of matches in the competition than Wolves (6).
- No team has been given more Premier League red cards this season than Brighton (five, level with Arsenal), with Lewis Dunk the first player to be dismissed twice in the 2020-21 competition.
- All of Adama Traore’s seven Premier League goals have been scored in the second half, the most of any player to score all of his goals exclusively in the second half of matches.
- Wolves’ Morgan Gibbs-White (21y 102d) was the youngest English player to score a 90th-minute winning goal in the Premier League since Marcus Rashford for Manchester United v Bournemouth in November 2018 (21y 3d).
- Since his Premier League debut in August 2017, Brighton’s Lewis Dunk has scored 11 goals in the competition, more than any other centre-back in this time, overtaking Virgil van Dijk (10) with his header against Wolves.
- Brighton’s Lewis Dunk was the third player to both score and be red carded in the same Premier League game this season (also Erik Lamela v Arsenal in March & Christian Benteke v West Ham in December); it’s the most this has happened in a single campaign since 2015-16 (five).
Wolves travel to face Tottenham on Sunday, 16 May (14:05 BST), the day after Brighton host West Ham in a 20:00 BST kick-off.
Brighton & Hove Albion
- 11Rui Patrício
- 16CoadyBooked at 83mins
- 49KilmanBooked at 80mins
- 28João Moutinho
- 8NevesSubstituted forTraoréat 61′minutes
- 20VitinhaSubstituted forDendonckerat 77′minutes
- 10PodenceSubstituted forDa Silvaat 69′minutes
- 17Fábio Silva
- 12Da Silva
- 22Nélson Semedo
- 26SánchezBooked at 85mins
- 5DunkBooked at 53mins
- 16JahanbakhshSubstituted forMac Allisterat 58′minutes
- 8BissoumaBooked at 90mins
- 11TrossardSubstituted forModerat 58′minutes
- 9MaupayBooked at 90mins
- 18WelbeckSubstituted forZeqiriat 78′minutes
- 10Mac Allister
- Jonathan Moss
Match ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 2, Brighton and Hove Albion 1.
Neal Maupay (Brighton and Hove Albion) is shown the red card.
Second Half ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 2, Brighton and Hove Albion 1.
Foul by Fábio Silva (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Dan Burn (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Conor Coady (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Neal Maupay (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Ki-Jana Hoever (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Goal! Wolverhampton Wanderers 2, Brighton and Hove Albion 1. Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the top right corner.
Attempt blocked. Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Attempt blocked. Rayan Aït-Nouri (Wolverhampton Wanderers) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked.
Offside, Brighton and Hove Albion. Alexis Mac Allister tries a through ball, but Pascal Groß is caught offside.
Robert Sánchez (Brighton and Hove Albion) is shown the yellow card.
Attempt missed. Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Adama Traoré.
Conor Coady (Wolverhampton Wanderers) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Conor Coady (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Andi Zeqiri (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt blocked. Adama Traoré (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked.