Albion 2, Cheltenham 1.

It should have been a stroll but in the end Albion edged through to the second round of the FA Cup and a trip to Torquay a week on Saturday.

The Seagulls are seventh in League One, Cheltenham rooted to the foot of the table, and it showed for an hour.

Dean Wilkins' side were more dominant than when they beat Cheltenham 4-1 in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy last week, yet they were almost punished for failing to build on a rare goal from Adam El-Abd.

Steven Gillespie equalised in the second half for the visitors and Albion ultimately were grateful for a disputed penalty two minutes later, converted by captain Dean Hammond, for their place in the next round.

It should have been much more convincing but a win is a win. Albion are now unbeaten for seven matches and are in fine fettle for Saturday's visit by League One leaders Carlisle.

Andrew Whing's return from suspension at right-back enabled Wilkins to move Adam El-Abd back into the middle alongside Guy Butters, with Tommy Elphick sidelined by a hernia.

Jake Robinson's influential impact as a substitute in Saturday's 2-2 draw at Leyton Orient earned him a place in the starting line-up on the right flank at the expense of David Martot.

Cheltenham, heartened by their 2-2 draw at Southend on Saturday, brought Adam Connolly into central midfield for the cup-tied Dean Sinclair and Ben Gill came in for the injured Ashley Vincent.

It took Albion only 18 minutes to make their complete domination in the early stages count.

El-Abd met Dean Cox's corner to the near post with a thumping header into the roof of the net.

It was a collector's item - the first goal scored by an Albion defender since El-Abd struck at Southend in the Carling Cup 14 months ago.

The Seagulls, enjoying a slick pitch in remarkably good condition despite torrential rain, could already have been ahead before then.

George O'Callaghan, who really makes the team tick, curled narrowly over the crossbar from 20 yards after Nicky Forster set him up from a long, diagonal ball by Matt Richards.

It was a tactic which Albion almost profited from again, Whing knocking in a diagonal cross for Bas Savage. His knockdown found Cox and his effort from the edge of the area had to be pushed over by keeper Shane Higgs.

Higgs also acquitted himself well on a horrible night for goalkeepers when he grabbed at the second attempt a long range drive by Whing at the climax of a patient build-up.

Albion were so much in control in the first half that it bordered on the embarrassing.

Cheltenham's defensive frailties were exposed by more poor marking from another Cox corner but Butters could not keep his header down.

The Seagulls' passing was crisp at times and the movement of the forwards kept Cheltenham fully occupied.

The only slight disappointment was that, for by no means the first time this season, they failed to turn their overwhelming superiority into close range chances and more goals.

Another shot from distance, struck low and sweetly by Robinson, hit the base of Higgs' right hand post.

The tie really ought to have been over by half-time and yet Cheltenham could have gone in level, Michel Kuipers blocking at his near post an angled drive by Steven Gillespie from eight yards.

The pattern was reminiscent of the first meeting at Whaddon Road. Albion were well in charge in the first half on that occasion too but eventually required stoppage time salvation from Doug Loft to wipe out a goal from Gillespie.

He was Cheltenham's obvious dangerman and Kuipers had to stretch to hold the Liverpudlian striker's low snapshot from the edge of the area early in the second half.

Diligent defending was also required from the dependable Butters to twice charge down shots by the lively Gillespie.

The comfort of a second goal for Albion almost arrived in the 54th minute via a set- piece routine straight off the training ground.

Hammond clipped a free-kick by Richards into the path of Robinson but his shot was smothered by Higgs.

Instead of being 2-0 up, Albion found themselves pegged back by a well-taken equaliser from Gillespie in the 65th minute.

Paul Connor released him down the right flank, with the defence looking in vain for offside. He rounded Kuipers and calmly found the net from a tight angle.

It was not altogether a surprise at that stage, because Cheltenham had worked their way into the match in the second half and Gillespie was a constant menace.

But it took Albion only two minutes to restore their lead.

Gavin Caines was adjudged, rather harshly, to have held off Forster inside the area and Hammond sent Higgs the wrong way from the resulting penalty.

It was a crushing blow for the visitors and normal service was resumed thereafter.

Albion, no doubt instructed to shoot at every opportunity in such tricky conditions, had further attempts from distance by Cox and O'Callaghan which again brought the best out of the busy Higgs.

Forster also fired wide from a defence splitting pass by Savage and the Seagulls came perilously close to paying for their wastefulness with four minutes left.

Duff's header from a corner crashed against the underside of the bar. The ball was driven back in and diverted by Connor past the wrong-footed Kuipers but an offside flag came to Albion's rescue.

Albion: Kuipers, Whing, El-Abd, Richards, Butters, Cox, O'Callaghan, Hammond, Savage, Forster, Robinson. Subs: Sullivan, Lynch, Elder, Fraser, Martot.

Cheltenham: Higgs, Jeremy Gill, Duff, Wright, Caines, Bird, Ben Gill, Connolly, Gillespie, Connor, Spencer. Subs: Scott P Brown, Gallinagh, Reid, Wylde, Yao.

Referee: Mike Russell (Hertfordshire).

Attendance: 3,711 (62 Cheltenham).

What did you think of Albion's performance? Could this be the start of an FA Cup run for the Seagulls?