Olly Groome reports from the Amex Stadium
It was a frustrating afternoon by the seaside as Charlton succumbed to promotion hopefuls Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium.
The Seagulls are play-off hopefuls for a good reason and they showed their credentials, punishing a tired Addicks side on the South Coast with a pair of first-half goals before firing a third deep into injury time on the counter.
In truth, the visitors reacted well to going a goal down after 11 minutes before a controversial, killer goal just before the break effectively knocked the proverbial stuffing out of José Riga's men and a fruitless second-half unfortunately showed that they were just not in this contest at all.
There was just one change to the side which earned victory over Yeovil Town at The Valley on Tuesday night, with Lawrie Wilson returning in place of Richard Wood, with the right-back sporting a Zorro-esque face mask to protect a fractured cheekbone.
But the big news as far as the team was concerned was the long-awaited return to the substitutes bench of Chris Solly.
The reigning Player of the Year took his place in reserve for his first involvement since New Year's Day, much to the delight of the travelling Addicks who cheered the announcement of his name pre-match.
The clash at the Amex Stadium kicked off at 3.07pm to mark the 25-year anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and it was the Seagulls who got things under way with three minutes gone courtesy of Kazenga Lua Lua's right boot.
The tricky winger let fly from 25 yards but his effort was no concern of Ben Hamer as it flew well wide.
Indeed, the home side began with confidence and with an impressive vocal backing from the stands, Brighton came at the Addicks as they enjoyed the large majority of possession.
And, with 11 minutes gone, they took a lead which, in truth, was coming.
Hamer's ball out to Diego Poyet put the youngster in trouble just outside the D, and with LuaLua breathing down his neck, he dispossessed before playing in Jesse Lingard who had a simple job of firing past the Charlton custodian.
LuaLua was proving to be a real thorn in the visitors' side and with quarter-of-an-hour gone, he tricked his way past Wilson forcing Hamer to come steaming off his line to stamp out the danger.
It was 18 minutes before the Addicks applied any pressure at the other end and after forcing a corner, Astrit Ajdarević jigged through the Seagulls' defence but Rhoys Wiggins did not share the same wavelength as the ball ran through for a goal kick.
Charlton had reacted well to going a goal down as they patiently looked to play through their opponents.
A clever ball from Reza Ghoochannejhad played in Marvin Sordell who had just Matthew Upson to beat. But the the experienced defender showed the Olympian inside before making the tackle and depriving him of the opportunity to shoot at the vital moment.
The encounter was on a far more even keel as a midfield battle ensued.
Ghoochannejhad wanted a free-kick after being felled on the edge of the area but the Iranian was waved to his feet before Dorian Dervite made a superb challenge in the box to deny Leonardo Ulloa a turn just outside the six-yard box.
Just before the before the break Charlton came agonisingly close to an equaliser.
Jordan Cousins showed speed and strength to motor through the Brighton midfield before playing in Ghoochannejhad. And the forward's shot took an almighty deflection which looped over the head of Casper Ankergren before bouncing off the bar.
But while the Addicks were cursing their luck, the Seagulls took advantage, rounding off a swift counter-attack to double their lead.
Ulloa was the man to slot home when slid in one-on-one by Lingard but, to a man, the men in red shirt turned their fury to the linesman. They were absolutely sure the goal was offside and it looked at first glance as if that was certainly the case.
It was a game-changing 60 seconds which ended in frustration for the Addicks. Just when it looked like they might be deservedly level, they were hit with apparent injustice to go further behind.
José Riga shuffled his pack at the break and introduced Callum Harriott in place of Ajdarević in an attempt to hurt Brighton down the left-hand side.
A cagey opening to the second period was interrupted just before the hour mark when LuaLua picked up possession just inside the box before seeing a fierce effort deflected wide and from the corner, Solly March saw his effot from range tipped over by Hamer.
The home side were on the front foot and really should have increased their advantage further when a classy Ulloa flick played in Lingard who scooped a shot horribly over the bar when through one-on-one.
The Addicks were up against it as Brighton stepped up a gear but they could afford a smile in the 65th minute when Solly made his much-anticipated return, slotting into the right-back berth as Wilson moved into a more advanced position up the flank.
It made little difference, however, and with the result appearing to be a foregone conclusion the game fizzled out with little further incident until Jake Forster-Caskey broke to fire a third past Hamer with virtually the last kick of the game.
Charlton had shown tired legs – a result of a punishing backlog of games which will continue to have an effect until the season expires.
But make no mistake, with the Addicks' heads still above the relegation mire, they will go into another Valley six-pointer against Barnsley on Tuesday night with plenty of fight left in those fatigued limbs.
Charlton: Hamer; Wilson, Wiggins, Morrison, Dervite; Poyet, Cousins, Jackson (Church 81), Ajdarevic (Harriott 45); Sordell, Ghoochannejhad (Solly 65).
Subs (not used): Thuram-Ulien, Wood, Fox, Pigott.
Booked: Harriott 52 (foul on Lingard)
Brighton: Ankergren; Saltor, Greer, Upson, Ward; Andrews, Stephens, March (Calderon 89); LuaLua (Forster-Caskey 64), Lingard (Rodriguez 90+2), Ulloa.
Subs (not used): Brezovan, Dunk, Mackail-Smith, Lopez.
Booked: LuaLua 53 (foul on Wilson), March 55 (foul on Cousins)
Goals: Lingard 11, Ulloa 43, Foster-Caskey 90+5
Referee: Roger East
Att: 28,770 (1,869 from Charlton)