GOALS from Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Aaron Mooy condemned Cherries to a damaging defeat against an energetic Brighton at the Amex.

And the 2-0 loss was compounded by two further injuries to Cherries’ already depleted squad with both Joshua King and Jack Stacey forced off.

It could have been even worse for Eddie Howe’s men with VAR ruling out a Dan Burn strike due to a marginal offside call, while Yves Bissouma also struck the post for the hosts.

Defeat leaves Cherries just two points clear of the relegation zone, but they could slip into the bottom three depending on results elsewhere later today.

Having each played matches just two days earlier, both Cherries and Brighton made wholesale changes to their starting XI. Graham Potter made seven changes to his Seagulls side which lost at Tottenham, while Howe made five switches following the Boxing Day draw with Arsenal.

Junior Stanislas returned for his first appearance since April following hamstring and knee injuries while the other changes saw Diego Rico return from suspension while Dominic Solanke, Philip Billing and Harry Wilson were recalled with Ryan Fraser, Jack Simpson, Callum Wilson, Lewis Cook and Jefferson Lerma all dropping to the bench.

And the new-look Cherries side quickly found themselves behind. Less than three minutes had elapsed when the hosts took the lead following a ruthless counter-attack. After Rico’s pass infield was cut out, Brighton burst forwards through Mooy, who slid in Neal Maupay. The striker teed up Jahanbakhsh, who lashed in a fierce right-footed effort into the bottom corner for his first goal for the club.

Potter’s men continued their lively start with Cherries struggling to get a foothold on the contest, aside from one Rico ball down the line which found King, whose low effort tested goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.

Maupay fired off target for Brighton before Cherries began to ride out the storm and create some chance of their own before the half was out.

Solanke saw a shot blocked while both Harry Wilson and Stanislas efforts were deflected through to Ryan.

VAR was soon the talking point after the restart, first denying a penalty claim as Solanke went down under Lewis Dunk’s challenge in the box.

But there was an even bigger call to follow just past the hour mark. The Amex erupted after left-back Burn had slammed in following pinball in the box, but after a lengthy delay, the effort was ruled out due to a marginal offside call which deemed Burn to be just ahead of Chris Mepham from the initial free-kick by Mooy.

Howe instantly responded by introducing Fraser and Callum Wilson from the bench, but the efforts kept coming from Brighton.

Bissouma struck the base of the post before Mooy fired off target. Things then went from bad to worse for Cherries with King forced off injured, holding his hamstring as he was replaced.

Whilst the score remained at 1-0, the visitors always had a chance, but that was finally put to bed with little over 10 minutes to play.

Moments after Jack Stacey had received treatment for an injury, the Seagulls attacked down his flank with Leandro Trossard’s cross finding Mooy, who beautifully skipped inside Mepham and curled past Aaron Ramsdale to cap his fine performance with a goal.

Cherries had to finish the game with 10 men as Stacey was withdrawn shortly afterwards and headed straight down the tunnel.

Brighton almost added a third at the death, but Ramsdale was on hand to keep the score down to two.

Cherries: Ramsdale; Stacey, S Cook, Mepham, Rico; H Wilson (Fraser, 62), Gosling, Billing, Stanislas (C Wilson, 62); Solanke, King (L Cook, 73).

Unused subs: Simpson, Surman, Lerma, Boruc (g/k).

Booked: S Cook, Billing.

Brighton: Ryan; Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Burn; Bissouma (Murray, 89), Propper; Trossard, Mooy (Stephens, 84), Jahanbakhsh (Alzate, 84); Maupay.

Unused subs: Webster, Bernardo, Gross, Button (g/k).

Referee: Paul Tierney

Attendance: 30,441