FULL-TIME: Bristol City 0, Brighton & Hove Albion 0
ONCE again, the Championship proved a great leveller as Bristol City held up Brighton's promotion charge with a performance brim-full of tenacity and spirit at Ashton Gate.
Gus Poyet's Seagulls arrived in BS3 sporting the tag of the division's form team, only to have their wings clipped by hard-working opponents.
For much of this engaging contest, spectators would have been hard-pressed to distinguish between the promotion contenders and the side propping up the table.
Although City remain firmly entrenched in the relegation zone, this latest display represented another step forward in their quest to avert relegation to League One.
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If clean sheets were impossible to come by during the first half of the season, they are now becoming almost commonplace. Having **** out Blackpool on Saturday, the Robins produced an equally disciplined display to frustrate and ultimately subdue one of the Championship's most potent attacking teams.
The only thing lacking was a cutting edge in the final third and, despite dominating possession for long periods and forcing the Seagulls to retreat, the home side lacked the quality needed to prise open a Brighton defence that, while subjected to pressure at times, was seldom stretched.
City head coach Sean O'Driscoll urged his players to render themselves difficult to beat at the same time as being effective in possession and they ticked both boxes.
Growing in confidence after four successive home wins, the Robins demonstrated a willingness to move the ball at pace and made life uncomfortable for the Seagulls, notably when Cole Skuse twice had shots charged down on the edge of the penalty area.
Denied space and time on the ball by City's five-man midfield, the visitors were unable to establish any kind of rhythm and, as a consequence, seldom threatened the home goal.
City keeper Tom Heaton was called upon to rush from his line and smother a shot from rampaging right-back Inigo Calderon but was not otherwise extended during a first half in which City kept their opponents at arms' length.
In contrast, the Robins were bright and inventive going forward and the Seagulls keeper Tomasz Kuszczak twice made acrobatic saves to keep out powerful shots from the lively Paul Anderson and Skuse, while Stephen Pearson was inches short of applying a finishing touch to Brendan Moloney's incisive centre from the right.
Brighton's discomfiture grew when former England centre-half Matthew Upson dallied on the ball and was dispossessed by Anderson, whose heavy first touch betrayed him, much to the relief of Kuszczak. A marauding presence in midfield, Marvin Elliott then headed over from a Greg Cunningham free kick as City finished the first half in the ascendancy.
City's shoot-on-sight policy yielded off-target efforts from Anderson, Liam Kelly and Pearson after the break, while Stead's shot on the turn was blocked by Bruno as Brighton were forced onto the back foot.
City's pressing game was only effective up to a point and too many balls played into the penalty area lacked the accuracy to hurt the visitors. But at least Brighton were being given no encouragement and Robins keeper Heaton was a virtual spectator.
Brighton were not at their fluent best, but then they were not allowed to be. As for City, they threw on Albert Adomah and Sam Baldock in a late bid to win the game, but will be satisfied with a point against a team that beat them comfortably in November.
Bristol City (4-5-1): Heaton; Moloney, Nyatanga, Fontaine, Cunningham; Anderson (Baldock 88), Kelly, Skuse, Elliott, Pearson (Adomah 85); Stead.
Brighton (4-3-3): Kuszczak; Bruno, El-Abd, Upson, Calderon; Lopez, Bridcutt, Hammond; Buckley, Mackail-Smith (Ulloa 45), Orlandi.
Referee: Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire).