Manager Gus Poyet tipped his trailblazing Brighton side to clinch the League One title after their narrow 1-0 win at Oldham.
The Seagulls were outplayed for long periods by an Oldham side without a win in eight games, but substitute Ashley Barnes proved to be the match-winner, despite suspicions of offside, with a goal after 67 minutes.
It meant a fifth straight win for the south-coast club and with the season entering it's final stretch, Poyet said: "We did it with courage and spirit and we showed what you need to become champions."
Poyet added: "We are trying to keep a run going and we didn't start brightly but we have a squad and made changes.
"Gary Dicker came on in the second half, made the whole team play football and we needed that to improve us. Our back four and keeper were outstanding and if you defend like that you keep clean sheets and win games."
The only down side of the day was Barnes having to come off 11 minutes after scoring with an ankle complaint.
"There's a concern about Barnes, but we have a happy dressing room which is always the case after a result like this," Poyet added. "There has not been a team all season who have given us problems like Oldham so all credit to them but we have just about managed to beat them twice."
Oldham have taken just one point from their past eight games and boss Paul Dickov said: "I asked the boys if any of them have run over a black cat. We should have had two penalties and, having watched their goal again, I know it was four yards offside - even Gus agrees with that.
"It isn't sour grapes because Brighton are a good team but we will be okay if we keep performing like that. I'm gutted for the lads after the effort they put in and after they caused a good Brighton side all sorts of problems.
"You would never have known which team were top of the league. I really thought we were the better side and it was as good as we have played for a while."
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