Gordon Smith has never been allowed to forget the moment he could have won the FA Cup for Albion.

But he has always maintained he and others took time to really appreciate the full magnitude of the moment.

The anniversary of Albion’s biggest afternoon comes around again today.

Smith was the man who, on May 21, 1983, went head to head with Gary Bailey and prepared to send the Seagulls to FA Cup glory.

What happened next has gone into competition and club folklore. Bailey somehow smothered the shot with his legs, Alf Grey blew the final whistle and United escaped with a 2-2 draw.

Years later, references to the fateful moment when it seemed Smith Must Score were still cropping up in the most unlikely of places and almost on a daily basis.

Smith admitted: “It was the defining moment in my life. I played in six Scottish finals and won the league and the treble but people still throw that one at me.

“Sometimes they don t get it quite right. I have been introduced as the guy who missed a penalty or an open goal in a cup final.

“I took the British Airways magazine to task when they said I put the ball wide of an empty net. I got my lawyer to correct that!”

That is the problem when you are a part of folklore. Your story is altered bit by bit as it passed down the generations.

Fortunately for Smith, Albion fans recall that their Scottish striker was outstanding on the day and scored the goal at the Tunnel End which forced mighty United to chase the game.

The former Glasgow Ranger still vividly remembers getting in behind Kevin Moran and heading home a deep Gary Howlett cross to give his side a first-half lead.

Frank Stapleton replied after the break when the Albion defence was unsettled by an injury to Chris Ramsey.

Then Ray Wilkins cut inside onto his left foot and curled a superb chip around Graham Moseley.

Such left-footed feats run in the family. It was a similar strike by Ray’s brother Dean against Ipswich eight years later which enabled Albion to return to Wembley via the play-offs.

United’s celebrations were cut short when Gary Stevens fired home the equaliser following a corner on 86 minutes.

The ebb and flow continued into extra-time, with a draw looking certain until Jimmy Case sent Michael Robinson rumbling down the inside-left channel.

Smith recalled: “I thought maybe he would shoot but he cut inside Gordon McQueen and rolled the ball across to me.

“If he had played a fast ball I would have hit it first time, but it was just rolling gently to me.

“I could see Gary Bailey coming and I was trying to get him across goal and then play the ball low and hard back where he had come from.

“I got hold of it but I didn’t get the angle and it stuck between his legs.

“There wasn’t even any rebound. I didn’t realise how near the end it was at the time, but then the final whistle blew and I was thinking, ‘What a chance. I should have done better’.

“But there was no real problem about it until after the replay.

“Then we lost and everybody went back to my chance in the first match.”

It was an epic occasion, the sort that tend to come along once in a lifetime rather than twice in five days.

That much was proved the following Thursday when United won 4-0 in an anti-climax of a replay.

All the same, it was a fantastic time for Albion. The helicopter journey to Wembley, boss Jimmy Melia’s dancing shoes, Steve Foster’s vain battle against suspension and Stevens’ towering display at the back have all gone down in legend.

The first match still makes compelling viewing, as Smith’s son Grant, who played against Albion with Swindon in the 2003-04 play-offs, discovered when he dug out the video during his academy days at Hearts.

Smith senior said: “I had only just started playing up front at that time and I could have done with a few more games.

“Grant seemed to think I played pretty well. The final was such a proud moment and I am so sad I didn’t score at the end just for the sake of the team.”

Jimmy Case suffered FA Cup disappointment against Manchester United, just as he had six years earlier with Liverpool.

But he insisted: “If the players had been asked who they wanted to be in the position at that stage of the game, it would have been Gordon.

“A lot of people talk to me about Liverpool but going back to Wembley with another side was really special.

“We had a good team and we deserved to be there. We had had some hard matches working our way through the rounds.

“There was a lot of razzamatazz and it suited Brighton as a town.”