Albion's fine form continued at Withdean last night in a fluctuating match against hapless Hartlepool.

The Seagulls seemed to be cruising to their sixth victory out of seven when they stormed into a 3-0 lead within half an hour.

Gary Hart opened the scoring with his third of the season on seven minutes.

Leading marksman Bobby Zamora increased the lead on 21 minutes and Richard Carpenter then hammered his first for the club from a free-kick.

Micky Adams' rampant side conceded their first goal in seven matches seconds before the interval, a linesman judging that keeper Michel Kuipers dropped Chris Westwood's cross over the line.

Substitute Tim Sperrevik made it 3-2 on 48 minutes to suddenly give the visitors hope.

But Zamora wrapped things up for Albion on 68 minutes with his second of the game and eighth of the campaign, all of them at home. There was further misery for Hartlepool when Sperrevik received a red card from referee David Elleray ten minutes from the end.

Albion were unchanged again following Saturday's goalless home draw against a negative Scunthorpe.

Hartlepool made a couple of changes to the side which suffered a third away defeat in succession at high-riding, Rochdale.

Sharp and Fitzpatrick came into the starting line-up, relegating Arnison and Norwegian striker Sperrevik to the bench.

Hartlepool, depleted by injuries, looked like being no more enterprising than Scunthorpe were, with the experienced Lormor alone up front.

Southern Water were appropriate sponsors for the match, with the rain bucketing down just before kick-off.

In the fourth minute Strodder's foul on Zamora gave Albion a free kick 30 yards out. Keeper Williams failed to hold Carpenter's ensuing effort, but no Albion player was following up.

It was well worth Carpenter having a pot at goal from such long range, with the pitch slick on top.

Baker, on loan from Middlesborough, collected a fifth minute caution for a foul on Hart as he made progress through the middle.

Hart opened the scoring two minutes later with his first goal for six games. Zamora won the ball in the air deep inside the area for Hart to score with a volley which rolled through Williams' legs into the net.

Jones, with four goals already this season, headed onto the roof of the net and then had a shot deflected narrowly wide for a corner as Albion threatened to run riot.

Hartlepool responded with a curling attempt by Fitzpatrick from outside the box which flew just wide of the diving Kuipers' left hand post.

Sharp's huge throw-in caught the Albion defence unawares moments later, but none of his colleagues were close enough to capitalise.

Keeper Williams was at fault again, along with one of his defenders, as Albion doubled their advantage on 21 minutes.

Strodder completely missed a clearing header from Carpenter's cross. Jones' low drive went through Williams and was rolling towards the gaping goal when Zamora made sure from virtually on the line.

Hartlepool, their game plan shot to pieces, immediately introduced Sperrevik for his first away start up front at the expense of defender Sharp.

Nothing was going right for the visitors, Lormer having his name taken in the 25th minute for a foul on Jones.

Baker, having already been booked, was fortunate not to be sent off when he impeded Zamora. Referee David Elleray seemed to be reaching for his pocket, but Baker escaped.

The reprieve was only temporary, Carpenter cracking the resulting free kick from 20 yards past the motionless Williams to put the irresistible Seagulls three-up in half an hour.

Zamora was having a field day, a couple of chested lay-offs to team-mates drawing warm applause from a jubilant crowd. Albion, revelling in such a commanding position, began passing the forlorn visitors off the park as half-time approached.

A proud clean sheet sequence for Albion, spanning a minute over ten hours, came to a bizarre end on the stroke of half time.

Westwood's cross from the left flank seemed straightforward for the unchallenged Kuipers. The Dutch keeper dropped it and the linesman flagged to indicate the ball had crossed the line.

Kuipers, furious with the decision, was cautioned for continuing his protests as the players walked off at half time.

Hartlepool, having been thrown an improbably lifeline, reduced their arrears further within three minutes of the restart. Miller made strides down the right. Wicks seemed to have stopped him but the Hartlepool midfielder capitalised on a fortunate rebound to cross low for Sperrevik to side-foot in from close range.

Suddenly the Seagulls had dug themselves into a bit of a hole. That was fitting, as play was held up when Hartlepool fullback Knowles found a hole in the pitch a few yards inside the visitors' half. The game eventually got back underway after emergency repairs by two of the ground staff.

Miller fired over from 25 yards as Hartlepool threatened to complete an outrageous comeback. The Seagulls had lost their way at this stage of a madcap contest and their opponents were growing in confidence.

Albion made a substitution on 63 minutes, Steele once again replacing Hart. Brooker came on for Jones on 67 minutes and Zamora gave Albion breathing space with his second goal of the game a minute later.

Watson's free-kick was helped across goal by Cullip for the teenage striker to convert from close in.

Hartlepool were reduced to ten men ten minutes from time when Sperrevik was mysteriously sent off.

Albion made a third substitution shortly after, Melton replacing Rogers.