Southampton extended their unbeaten run against their south-coast rivals to eight games after a 2-1 victory at the Amex Stadium.
2000 Seagulls fans were welcomed back to the ground following a nine-month absence and would have been delighted to see their team take the lead with a Pascal Gross penalty that sent Alex McCarthy the wrong way after James Ward Prowse handled the ball in the area.
It was just reward for a first 25mins that saw Brighton on the front foot, calling the Southampton keeper off his line to gather on two previous occasions.
Brighton continued to press after the goal with Southampton struggling to find any real rhythm in their game and it was against the run of play that the Saints found their breakthrough with James Ward-Prowse continuing his impressive record from set-pieces with a pinpoint corner that found the head of Jan Vestergaard.
Brighton started the second half equally brightly with Tariq Tamptey looking threatening down the right but it was Southampton who would have the final say on proceedings.
Kyle Walker-Peters was bought down by Solly March on the edge of the area on 79 minutes with the referee initially awarding a free-kick. A lengthy VAR review duly followed with David Coote finally awarding the penalty which substitute Danny Ings dispatched to notch his 7th of the season.
Southampton in the European places and Brighton left wondering what might have been.