Durham Women suffered their first defeat of the 2017/18 season after losing out at Brighton & Hove Albion.
First half goals from Fliss Gibbons and Ini Umotong had put the hosts in the driving seat, but Beth Hepple’s strike on the stroke of half-time offered the Wildcats hope.
Brighton were then reduced to ten players when goalkeeper Lucy Gillett saw red for a foul on Nicki Gears, with Hepple dispatching the resultant free-kick to equalise.
But it was Brighton who would have the final say as Danielle Buet smashed home a penalty after the lively Gibbons was tripped in the area.
Both sides had won on the opening day of the season and, in their first game on home soil, Brighton started the brightest.
And they took the lead with just nine minutes played as Gibbons got onto the end of a long ball before cutting into the area and firing past Helen Alderson.
The goal briefly buoyed Durham who had two chances to level shortly after. Emily Roberts’ shot lacked power after Brighton failed to clear a corner while Gears saw a teasing cross flash just in front of the onrushing Zoe Ness.
Yet despite this pressure, it was Brighton who doubled their advantage – a free-kick met with an acrobatic effort from Umotong which left Alderson with no chance.
Gibbons could have then doubled her tally for the afternoon when a well-worked move presented her with a sight of goal but the shot curled well wide.
There was a sense the next goal would be crucial, and it was the Wildcats who got it as Ness capitalised on some lax defending to feed Hepple who made no mistake and slotted past Gillett.
Durham built on this after the break and were handed a boost when Gillett saw red after colliding with Gears as the striker found herself through on goal.
There was a further boost from the resulting free-kick as the visitors equalised – Hepple curling into the bottom corner to level things up.
It was Brighton, however, who created the better chances after the dismissal with Buet seeing a long-range effort cannon off the crossbar before Alderson smartly denied her at the near post moments later.
But Durham were still a threat and Hepple could have grabbed herself a hat-trick with just over ten minutes remaining as she bore down on goal, – substitute goalkeeper Chloe Sansom doing well to gather as the midfielder attempted to round her.
The influential Buet, however, would have the final say as she grabbed the winner.
Caroline Dixon brought down Gibbons in the area with Buet then sending Alderson the wrong way from the spot.
Despite seeing plenty of the ball late on, Durham failed to test Sansom and were forced to leave Culver Road with nothing to show for their efforts.
Durham: Alderson, Johnson, Wilson, Hepple, Ness, Gears, Christon (Dixon), Roberts (Cottam), Briggs (Worthington), Hill, Lee
Subs Not Used: Borthwick, Atkinson
Goals: Hepple (45, 59)