What price Aston Villa for a knock-out double? The Carling Cup finalists had to endure a couple of scares inflicted by brave Brighton but otherwise produced another second-half exhibition of smooth attacking movement to move into the FA Cup fifth round.
In the process, they illustrated the depth of squad that Martin O'Neill is assembling as his side develop into one of the English game's most attractive and promising as confirmed by a crowd of 39,725 at a time when the Cup is struggling to regain and retain interest.
Solid start: Nathan Delfouneso celebrates his 5th minute goal with teammate Marc Albrighton
Brighton, whose manager Gus Poyet was part of the Chelsea side that beat Villa in the 2000 final, had their moments, as Tommy Elphick cancelled out Nathan Delfouneso's early goal and Nicky Forster struck late, but goals by Ashley Young and 20-year-old Fabian Delph sent Villa into the last 16.
'He's going to be a proper player,' said O'Neill of Delph, a £6million signing from Leeds, before musing on the feasibility of reaching two finals. 'We are going to try. You need the luck of the draw and lots of things can happen but, if the quality players we possess stay fit, there is no reason why we can't have a go.'
rocking: Tommy Elphick celebrates scoring the equaliser with teammates
Villa led inside five minutes when Young put Marc Albrighton away on the right and the winger cut the ball back for Delfouneso to tap home.
Albrighton, a 20-year-old product of the youth academy, took a knock crossing the ball and limped off in tears as his big day ended in agony.
Sigh of relief: Ashley Young made it 2-1
Brighton must have feared the worst when they saw his replacement: James Milner. 'I told him I thought he looked tired,' said Poyet later and Brighton overcame their nerves to grab an equaliser.
Villa failed to clear a corner and Elphick drove home, to the delight of 6,000 travelling fans. Their foray into dreamland was rudely interrupted three minutes into the second half, however. Milner broke and supplied Stewart Downing for a cross that Young rose to head home.
Eruption: Elphick scores
The beautifully worked third arrived with Downing and Milner again combining, this time the latter taking the former's pass before sending Delph racing on to round Adam Virgo and slot the ball into the net.
A post kept out Delfouneso's 30-yard shot and Forster's late strike made it a more flattering scoreline for Brighton.
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