World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister scored his first goals since returning from Qatar as Brighton eased past Sky Bet Championship Middlesbrough to reach the FA Cup fourth round.
The Argentina international, a half-time replacement for Adam Lallana at the Riverside Stadium, produced deft 58th-minute and 80th-minute finishes to cement a comfortable 5-1 victory for the Premier League side.
First-half goals from Pascal Gross and Lallana either side of Chuba Akpom’s equaliser – his 14th of the season – had set the visitors on their way.
Substitute Deniz Undav added a late fifth on a day when Michael Carrick’s promotion hopefuls were given a taste of what awaits them should they make it out of the second tier this season.
Mac Allister had to make do with a seat on the bench once again as Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi fielded a strong line-up featuring seven of the men who started Tuesday’s 4-1 Premier League win at struggling Everton.
The visitors started strongly with Kaoru Mitoma prominent down the left and linking menacingly with Gross.
It was skipper Gross who made the breakthrough with just eight minutes gone when, after the unmarked Solly March had run on to Evan Ferguson’s intelligent pass to force Zack Steffen to save, he followed up and slotted into the empty net.
The Teessiders were struggling to keep the Seagulls at bay but they got themselves level after 13 minutes when former Boro keeper Jason Steele could only touch Akpom’s header on to the post and saw the ball spin into his net.
Steele came to Brighton’s rescue after 23 minutes when Matt Crooks picked out Riley McGree’s run with an astute flick-on and he raced in on goal before unleashing a stinging drive which the keeper tipped over his crossbar.
Steffen was slightly less convincing in dealing with Gross’ 26th-minute free-kick and was picking the ball out of his net once again on the half-hour when Mitoma fed March’s cross back to the far post and Lallana headed home from point-blank range.
Steele saved comfortably from Crooks and Jan Paul Van Hecke hacked away Akpom’s cross at the near post as Boro responded but Steffen had to deal with a well-struck Mitoma effort to ensure the hosts went in at the break just a single goal in deficit.
Mac Allister replaced Lallana at the interval as the visitors returned in determined mood and they could have killed the game off within three minutes had March not directed a free header from Pervis Estupinan’s inviting cross straight at Steffen.
The hosts could simply not escape their own half with Moises Caicedo and Mac Allister dominating the middle of the park and the Argentinian got his reward when he reacted smartly to flick Estupinan’s raking shot past Steffen and inside his left post.
Mac Allister twice went close with free-kicks and eventually doubled his tally when he converted Gross’ low cross with the minimum of fuss before Undav completed the job with two minutes remaining.