Newcastle stunned by Blackburn as Brighton take top spot
REUTERS - Newcastle United were stunned 1-0 at Blackburn Rovers on Monday as their winter wobbles continued, with Brighton overtaking them into top spot in the English Championship after coming from behind to beat Fulham 2-1 away.
Chris Hughton's Brighton extended their winning streak to five matches as they scored two goals in two second-half minutes through substitute Tomer Hemed and Lewis Dunk to battle back from Lucas Piazon's 55th-minute opener.
Visiting goalkeeper David Stockdale had also saved Stefan Johansen's first-half penalty and Brighton move up to 54 points in the second-tier Championship, two ahead of Newcastle with a game in hand on their promotion rivals.
Newcastle have now lost two in their last three matches and dropped to second after Charlie Mulgrew's deft free kick handed Blackburn all three points at Ewood Park.
The Scotland international scored the winner -- another excellent free kick -- as Blackburn bested Newcastle at St. James' Park in November, and he repeated the trick on Monday when he sent a delicious effort past Karl Darlow in the 74th minute.
Mo Diame had hit the woodwork during a frustrating first half for Newcastle, who dominated but could find no way past the impressive Jason Steele.
"It's difficult to explain," Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez told journalists. "What we had to do was the same things in the second half as the first.
"We lost control of the game for five minutes and conceded."
Blackburn had not won in six games before their unlikely triumph and, while they remain in the relegation zone, they move up to 24 points, one behind Burton Albion in 21st.
Third-placed Reading demonstrated their promotion credentials with an excellent 3-2 come-from-behind victory at Bristol City, while Huddersfield Town and Leeds United also consolidated their playoff positions with victories over Wigan Athletic and Rotherham United respectively.
(Reporting by Ed Dove; Editing by Clare Fallon)