Brighton captain Lewis Dunk says the club must seize a precious opportunity to secure European football following the mixed emotions of a thrilling 3-3 draw with Brentford.
Albion dominated Saturday’s gripping Premier League contest at the Amex Stadium and showed resilience by coming from behind three times to salvage a point.
The result lifted the Seagulls above Liverpool and into sixth position, while keeping them ahead of the Bees on goal difference with two games in hand.
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi has made no secret of his desire to secure continental qualification and defender Dunk is determined to realise the dream.
“We’ve got a target and we’ve never been in such a good position to get into Europe, so we’ve got to grasp it,” he told the club website.
“We’re in a position to get there and we’ve got to make sure we do that.
“It’s on us, we’ve got a lot of games in quick succession and we’ll be ready and make sure we try and reach our target.”
Brighton registered 33 attempts at goal against their rivals in the race for Europe but required a 90th-minute penalty from Alexis Mac Allister to prevent a damaging defeat.
Brentford defender Ethan Pinnock looked to have claimed the winner after Seagulls pair Kaoru Mitoma and Danny Welbeck cancelled out efforts from Pontus Jansson and Ivan Toney in an action-packed first half.
Brighton-born Dunk joined his hometown team’s academy 20 years ago and began his professional career in the third tier in 2010.
He never envisaged being in a position to help the club challenge at the upper end of the top flight and heaped praise on Italian coach De Zerbi for making players “feel a million dollars”.
“When I was in the youth team in League One, I never thought the club would be where it is now and it’s been amazing being on the journey,” said the 31-year, whose side have 12 league games remaining, plus an FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United.
“Hopefully this journey continues and we finish well enough this year and get into Europe.
“The manager puts you out there and we know exactly what we’re doing, I think it shows.
“He makes you feel a million dollars at times and you go out there confident. It’s enjoyable working under him and let’s see what happens.”
While Brighton turn their attention to Tuesday evening’s trip along the south coast to relegation-threatened Bournemouth, Brentford are preparing to face Manchester United at Old Trafford the following day.
Bees boss Thomas Frank is also aiming high as the season reaches its climax.
Asked if he had spoken to his squad about the possibility of Europe, the Dane replied: “Not as a clear target; obviously we’re aiming for that.
“We dream and we dream big and we want to end as high as possible in the league.
“I don’t find a coach or a club or a player that doesn’t want to aim as high as possible and dream big – and we definitely dream big.
“We’re also very, very aware that we need laser focus on the next game against Man United. We need to have that laser focus, I think that’s the key thing.”