Brighton & Hove Albion 2 (LuaLua 5, 39)
There was to be no miracle – no great escape. Wolves succumbed to a first-half brace from Brighton’s Kazenga LuaLua and were relegated for the second successive season.
Results elsewhere rendered the final scoreline on the south coast irrelevant and Wolves now face the prospect of League One football next August.
Dean Saunders made four changes to the side that started against Burnley with Jack Robinson, Stephen Ward, Stephen Hunt and Björn Sigurdarson all dropping down to the bench. Into the side came George Elokobi, Nouha Dicko, Bakary Sako and, back from suspension, Jamie O’Hara.
Playing for the first time at the American Express Community Stadium, Wolves defended the end of the ground that housed 2,000 travelling supporters.
A second minute free-kick from Sako was headed clear by Gordon Greer and Matt Doherty’s long-throw that followed was also booted away by a defender.
The dream start that Wolves needed was inches away when Sako hit a first time shot that struck the base of the post and went behind.
Brighton took a fifth minute lead in their first attack. Liam Bridcutt appeared to shove Tongo Doumbia in the back but there was no whistle and when the Brighton man passed to LuaLua, he cut inside and rifled a 20-yard drive into the bottom corner.
Roger Johnson’s header from O’Hara’s cross was easily gathered by Tomasz Kuszczak but then the keeper was almost caught out by Sako’s inswinging corner as he scrambled the ball away from the line.
There was a sympathetic round of applause from the home fans as their Molineux counterpasrts burst into a chorus of ‘Que Sera, Sera, we’re going to Shrewsbury’. Despite the desperate situation of their team, the supporters that had made the long journey were as loud and as colourful as ever.
Karl Henry was wide with a long-distance effort and Dorus De Vries rose in a crowded area to claim Bridcutt’s free-kick after Kaspars Gorkss had fouled Ashley Barnes wide on the right.
There was little to choose between the sides at this stage although there wasn’t much by way of goalmouth action.
But Brighton went two up in the 39th minute with LuaLua once again on target after he had run into the box and drifted past a challenge before hitting an angled shot into the net.
Sako squared a free-kick into the path of O’Hara who fired wide of the post from the edge of the area shortly before the end of an uninspiring half of football.
Half-Time: Brighton 2 Wolves 0
Sako, still suffering from the effects of his hamstring injury, was replaced by Hunt at the start of the second period.
Wolves started the half well and after a Doumbia shot was blocked the ball ran to O’Hara who skied it over the bar from 25-yards.
In the 55th minute, Doherty wasn’t far away from pulling one back when he bounced a header over the bar after O’Hara had lofted a free-kick into the area.
Sigurdarson replaced Doherty with just over an hour gone after the young defender had been the victim of a clattering touchline challenge which left him what appeared to be a hip injury.
Bridcutt almost headed into his own net in attempting to clear a O’Hara cross and then Kevin Doyle had a shot blocked by the keeper as Wolves continued to press although the odds were hopelessly stacked against them.
Elokobi was replaced by Ward whilst for the home side Dean Hammond and Adam El-Abd went on for LuaLua and Marcos Painter respectively.
In a rare home attack Vicente Rodriguez worked himself into a good shooting position before slicing his shot wide, shortly before Johnson became the game’s only booking after a late challenge on El-Abd.
Deep into stoppage time De Vries did well to block El-Abd’s half volley at the near post before, seconds later, Wanderers’ season of misery was terminated by the referee’s final whistle.
Seagulls: Kuszczak, Greer, Crofts, Barnes, Rodriguez (Barker 88), Ulloa, Upson, Lopez, Painter (Hammond 78), LuaLua (El-Abd 72), Bridcutt.
Unused subs: Ankergren, Orlandi, Dicker, Buckley.
Wolves: De Vries, Doherty (Sigurdarson 62), Elokobi (Ward 72), Henry, Gorkss, Johnson, O’Hara, Doumbia, Doyle (capt), Dicko, Sako (Hunt 45).
Unused subs: McCarey, Robinson, Batth, McAlinden.
Booking: Johnson ((84 – foul).
Referee: S. Hooper.