Sunderland Under-23s’ bid to progress to the Premier League Cup knockout stage suffered a setback with tonight’s 3-1 defeat at Brighton.
The Seagulls proved too strong for a Black Cats side, who fielded keeper Max Stryjek on his return from a loan stint at Accrington Stanley.
Jiri Skalak gave Brighton a 17th-minute lead, finishing home at the back post from a cross by Viktor Gyokeres.
It was 2-0 in first-half stoppage time as Gyokeres curled his shot beyond Max Stryjek following a fine team move.
Sunderland fell three down on 56 minutes when Josh Robson could only turn a dangerous Gyokeres cross into his own net.
Elliot Embleton threw the visitors a 66th-minute lifeline, converting a penalty after a handball offence by Tom Dallison.
Sunderland’s defeat saw them drop to third place in the four-team group, with the top two progressing to the last 16.
But group leaders Exeter, Brighton and the Wearsiders are all level on six points apiece. Exeter have only played three games, to their rivals’ four.
Sunderland U23s: Stryjek, J Robson, Hume, Gamble, Taylor, Storey, Diamond (Young 89), Embleton, Connelly, Kimpioka, Hackett (Kokolo 89). Subs not used: Woud, Brotherton, Allan