LONDON (AFP) - Sheffield Wednesday seized control of their Championship play-off semi-final against Brighton with a 2-0 win over the injury-ravaged visitors at Hillsborough on Friday.
Wednesday finished 15 points behind Brighton in the second tier table, but that gap counted for nothing as goals from Ross Wallace and Kieran Lee put the Yorkshire club in pole position for a place in the play-off final at Wembley.
After narrowly missing out on automatic promotion to the Premier League on goal difference, Brighton's bid to end their 33-year exile from the top-flight is in severe trouble heading into Monday's second leg on the south coast.
Brighton will claim they had no luck after losing four players through injury, leaving them forced to play the last 30 minutes with 10 men after using all their substitutes.
But Wednesday were the sharper side right from the start and are now favourites to face Derby or Hull, who meet in the first leg of the other semi-final on Saturday, for a lucrative place in the Premier League.
The game erupted in controversy in the 19th minute when Wednesday forward Fernando Forestieri chased down a long ball from goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and fired beyond David Stockdale.
Despite extensive celebrations, referee Andre Marriner consulted with an assistant and eventually disallowed the goal on the basis that the striker had been offside when Westwood had launched the ball forward.
But Wednesday took the lead in the 44th minute as Wallace drifted inside before drilling a low shot past Stockdale from 20 yards.
With Tomed Hemed, Connor Goldson, Steve Sidwell and Anthony Knockaert all forced off with injuries, Brighton were reduced to damage limitation.
Yet Wednesday doubled their lead in the 73rd minute when Forestieri threaded the ball into the penalty area for Lee to clip a fine finish into the far corner.