Dramatic Welbeck equaliser cancels out Lukaku opener as Reece James goes off injured in huge blow

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Brighton fans celebrated Danny Welbeck’s last-gassed leveller by flashing a blue flare on the pitch – as Chelsea’s title charge went up in smoke.

Thomas Tuchel’s team took the lead with a header from Romelu Lukaku in the first half, but never looked comfortable.

Danny Welbeck celebrates as Brighton takes last gasp at Chelsea

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Danny Welbeck celebrates as Brighton takes last gasp at Chelseacredit: getty
Welbeck led an extra-time equalizer to beat Chelsea in West London

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Welbeck led an extra time equalizer to beat Chelsea in West Londoncredit: getty

To make matters worse, the Blues lost Reece James, who suffered a serious first-half injury in the same week that Ben Chilwell was ruled out for the season.

Brighton had never scored at Stamford Bridge in their history, but they were driven by wave after wave of attacks on goal from Edouard Mendy.

Eventually, at death, one of them counted as Deputy Welbeck, who rose to meet Mark Cucurella’s cross and put a header into the corner of the net in injury time.

It was a hammer blow for Tuchel, but he could not claim he was ineligible as Albion completely sidelined the game and were unlucky not to take all three points.

But it was another stuttering performance from the European champions – their fourth draw at home in five Premier League games – that left them Eight Points to Manchester City’s top dogs.

A piece of rest was a stellar first-half performance from the return of Lukaku, who has suffered a stop-start season since returning to the club for £97.5million over the summer due to covid and injury.

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He looked fit and frightening at the end, and if he can stay that way maybe Chelsea can continue the fight for the reigning champion of Pep Guardiola.

But with more key players getting injured, it looks unlikely.

As for Lukaku’s supremacy at the helm, it was far from a major Chelsea performance.

Brighton poked their nose at a head-to-head record that showed their only victory against the Blues came before World War II, leaving no end to their hosts’ problems.

Mendy had to stay on top of his game as wave after wave of attacks from Graham Potter were put together, especially in the second half.

Whereas Antonio Rudiger was lucky to see only one yellow for a careless, two-legged challenge on Tariq Lamptey just before the break.

It was a typical ding-dong celebration of a football match, where fatigue plays its part – as managers like Tuchel never stop paying attention – but entertainment adds up.

Cesar Azpilicueta marked his 450th appearance for the club with a goal in 17 minutes as his distracted shot hit the post, before Rudiger powerfully led James’ cross on Rob Sanchez.

Andreas Christensen then fell to the ground and looked like he was going to be replaced by Trevor Chaloba, but stalled at half-time until that change took place.

Romelu Lukaku put Chelsea in pole position with a header in the first half

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Romelu Lukaku put Chelsea in pole position with a header in the first halfcredits: PA
Romelu Lukaku nods to Chelsea shortly before half an hour

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Romelu Lukaku nods to Chelsea shortly before half an hourcredits: PA

Earlier, however, James’ injury hammered.

The Three Lions star has been sensational this season – like Chilwell – the wing-back is vital to Chelsea’s success.

James took several minutes to help but strangely, the break in play cooled the visitors, as seconds later Lukaku shoved Neil Maupay to put Mason Mount’s corner into the net.

Maupay’s opposition to a possible foul from Belgium was turned away by referee Mike Dean and the goal awarded.

But instead of giving Chelsea a platform from which to win games comfortably, it strengthened the side of Graham Potter, who had been knocked out repeatedly by Mendy.

The Senegalese stopper denied good hits from Adam Lallana and Alexis Mac Allister before the break.

He was then called into more action after a cheeky free-kick from Mack Allister and a distant defeat of Yves Bisouma’s rocket.

While Jacob Modder stabbed Lallana with a cute cross, Mercy fell on the roof of the net.

Despite the attack, Chelsea still should have wrapped it up when Lukaku sent off Callum Hudson-Odoi, but instead of shooting, the England winger tried to square for Mt and got it horribly wrong.

And it cost him when Sab Welbeck sent away fans potty in injury time for another last-gas Brighton equalizer this season, following similar scenarios at Crystal Palace and Southampton.

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Reece James' injury was a double blow for Chelsea with two points

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Reece James’ injury was a double blow for Chelsea with two pointscredits: PA
Thomas Tuchel cuts an animated figure during a nervous match at Stamford Bridge

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Thomas Tuchel cuts an animated figure during a nervous match at Stamford Bridgecredit: getty

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