Date: 10th February 2013 at 3:38pm
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Albion took a significant step towards the top six as Vicente came off the bench to help secure a vital win over fellow promotion hopefuls Hull.

An end-to-end second 45 was emphatically settled by the Spanish playmaker as he stepped up to fire home a late free-kick and lift the Seagulls to within touching distance of the play-off places.

A fairly timid start from the Albion saw the visitors create a couple of early openings – first Ahmed Elmohamady crossing from the right flank for Jay Simpson to comfortably clear the bar, and then Robert Koren firing high and wide before being thwarted by a fine block from Adam El-Abd.

From then on, the hosts controlled the play and created the marginally better chances for the rest of the half. Bruno, getting forward from right-back, saw an effort deflect behind off Paul McShane, before Craig Mackail-Smith failed to connect properly with a strike from the edge of the area.

David Lopez came closest half an hour in, when he picked up a pass 20 yards out following a slick move, proceeding to bend a fine right-footed effort towards the top corner only for David Stockdale to produce a smart save. The on loan Fulham stopper was then made to tip over a thunderous Andrea Orlandi free-kick.

Leonardo Ulloa struggled to get enough power on his header from a Bruno cross as Albion were unable to find the first half opener their possession might have deserved. Soon after the break Matt Upson was on hand to alleviate a hairy moment before Koren skewed a free-kick wide.

Steve Bruce’s men began to build a head of steam as Jay Simpson headed narrowly over, before Koren somehow cleared the target having slid in to meet a Stephen Quinn cross 5 yards out. David Meyler also wasted a good chance as he miscued a volley at the back post.

Vicente, who had already been introduced by this point, helped to set up Albion’s best chance of the match, producing a sublime through-ball to play Wayne Bridge into space on the left – the full-back’s cut-back eventually fell to Orlandi who failed to keep his effort down from 12 yards.

Where Stockdale had thwarted the Seagulls in the first half, Tomasz Kuszczak was similarly inspired in the second, as he pulled off an acrobatic stop to tip over Robbie Brady’s swerving strike from distance. But the best was yet to come from the Pole, as he produced an incredible save to his right to deny Elmohamady.

With the 3 points in the balance, the crowd could sense that one moment of quality would make the difference, and it would arrive with the Seagulls next foray forward. Orlandi was tripped on the edge of the area, and with Spaniards Lopez and Vicente stood over the ball, the latter stepped up to fire a powerful low-drive just wide of the wall and past a fumbling Stockdale.

It would prove to be the decisive action that sealed an important victory for Poyet’s men that sees them close the gap on 6th place Middlesbrough to a mere 2 points.

Albion host 8th place Blackburn at the Amex on Tuesday night in another key fixture.