Chris Hughton was forced to ruin the officials after Sol Bamba scored a controversial 90th-minute winner to help Cardiff defeat the 10-man Brighton.
Neil Warnock, who took on his 100th Cardiff manager, was among those who jumped for joy as Bamba's close combat – a crazy six-meter boxing incident in which the center-back seemed to be offside – The Bluebirds short out of the game brought the relegation zone.
The Brighton manager was less happy. "I do not think it looked like Sol Bamba was offside – he was offside," said Hughton. "The referees have difficult decisions to make, especially with regard to Cardiff's playing style, but they want them to make the big decisions right."
Cardiff's Callum Paterson had given up Lewis Dunk before Brighton was hampered by Dale Kill's 34th minute over a stud-up against Greg Cunningham.
Cardiff has lost two points this season with a goalless draw against the 10-man team, but this overlap was cut off in a frantic fight with late goals this time around. Bamba sent an over-kick against a post before Paterson's succession was deflected onto the crossbar. Finally, Bamba climbed back to his feet and hit home.
The afternoon had started off so well for Brighton that Dunk marked the entry into the England team. Solly March had a free-kick for the sixth consecutive minute – his second goal in two games – after losing Bamba at the far post.
"I used to take the stick out," Warnock said. "We worked on it every day this week, and how long did it take? Six minutes. "
Cardiff was sluggish throughout the opening quarter, and March Murray could not take advantage of Brighton if it was well placed. However, Cardiff were on target after 28 minutes as Kadeem Harriss Gaëtan Bong decoupled from the flank and Paterson came from close range to reach the third goal in four games.
Joe Ralls saw his volleyball held by Mathew Ryan, but Cardiff was invited to come to the top when Stephens saw Red. The Brighton midfielder followed a loose ball and sent Cunningham flying.
Martin Atkinson wavered without hesitation with a red card. "Dale has given the referee a decision," Hughton said. "I do not think there was good contact with the player, and on other occasions I think the referee did not give the red card."
Cardiff dominated the property and territory after the break, but did little until Harris hit the bar close to the hour with a curling stroke.
Brighton's box came under increasing pressure, but Cardiff lost to captain Sean Morrison after a header.
Morrison appeared dazed after treatment, but he stayed in the court for a few minutes before being replaced. The Football Association could still investigate this with regard to concussion protocols.
Brighton threatened when José Izquierdo forced Neil Etheridge to stop. However, Cardiff's stamina paid off when Bamba scored her second win of the season.
"I am so happy about Sol," Warnock said. "He came here with a free transfer and was fresh from day one."