Every soaring tale requires a fall guy. Compelled to quit the dance- floor early in order to catch the bus leaving Bigg Market at 2.30am, the Toon armada already felt like victims. Almost 2,000 made the 400-mile, six-hour trip. You wonder if they would have bothered had they known their team would not be turning up.
Maybe the staff and players of Newcastle United should have surrendered their luxury travel home in favour of a seat on the bus with the fans. There is nothing like a bit of terrace critique to drive a message home.
Yes, Alan Pardew was without seven first-team players and was forced to reach deep into his squad, but this defeat was not simply a matter of quality. There was no Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo on the Brighton teamsheet either. What the Championship club had was commitment and desire from front to back.
And so Pardew bids farewell to the FA Cup in the third round for the second time as Newcastle manager. This was the fourth time Newcastle have faced Brighton in this competition and they have yet to progress. At least last year they made it to the fourth round before lying down.
In fact, this display was arguably worse than the defeat by Stevenage at the same stage two years ago, another carbuncle on the record of an institution who have won the old pot six times and finished runners-up on seven occasions.
Newcastle are a long way from those honeyed, post-war days of Wor Jackie and Bobby Mitchell, and Pardew does not carry the can for that, but he might pay heavily if there is much more of this. To make matters worse, the centre-forward who left them for Chelsea as soon as the transfer window opened, Demba Ba, was on his new club's scoresheet twice after they had fallen behind at Southampton.
The loss of Shola Ameobi to a dubious red card an hour into this game did not alter the course of events, it merely tipped the balance further in Brighton's favour. Their manager, Gus Poyet, might consider goals in the 33rd minute and three minutes from time underachievement given the domination his side enjoyed for all but the closing stages of the first half.
James Perch kept Newcastle level in the eighth minute, clearing Gary Dicker's header off the line. And Rob Elliott was at full stretch to gather a drive from David Lopez in the 15th minute. Setting the tempo for the home side was minimalist schemer Liam Bridcutt. The former Chelsea youngster is on the shopping list of a host of Premier League clubs. His passing and vision in front of the back four was one of the many puzzles Newcastle could not crack.
Yet the short-passing blueprint that Bridcutt exemplifies was momentarily ripped up for the opening goal, when captain Gordon Greer swept a long, diagonal ball down the left in search of Wayne Bridge. In a reprise of the form that made him an England full-back, Bridge switched on the afterburners to chase the ball down and square from the dead-ball line. Andrea Orlandi was first to react, flicking the ball up with his right foot before turning it past Elliott acrobatically with his left.
Without frontline warriors of the quality of Papiss Cissé, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez, Cheick Tioté, Steven Taylor and skipper Fabricio Coloccini, Pardew found his second-string wanting. Gabriel Obertan and Sam Ameobi were peripheral figures, and that had nothing to do with their postings out wide. Gael Bigirimana and Vurnon Anita were busy in midfield but not creative, leading to a starvation diet for the elder Ameobi up front.
Substitute Sylvain Marveaux forced Greer into a block once Newcastle were down to 10 men and Nile Ranger headed over from a corner; not much to chew over for the fans on the long journey home. Not so the Brighton faithful, who went home doubly happy courtesy of a sweet finish by substitute Will Hoskins, picked out nicely by Lopez. As good as the pass was it should not be allowed to deflect from his shameful overreaction to the challenge of Shola Ameobi, who was red-carded for a second offence. "Disappointing to see that in a fellow professional," Pardew said. "The foul is nothing. He takes a look up, sees the ref walking over and starts rolling around. That did not help."
Neither did it alter the course of events. Brighton are progressing under Poyet in a home fit for the Premier League. He acknowledged that his team were fortunate to be meeting opposition diminished by the loss of key players, but praised the quality in his team.
"We were a bit lucky that Newcastle had so many top players missing but we stuck to our game. Though we did not create as many chances as we normally do we played well and deserved the victory."
Brighton (4-1-4-1): Ankergren; David Lopez, Greer, El-Abd, Bridge; Bridcutt; Hammond (Crofts, 82), Orlandi (Lua Lua, 60), Barnes, Dicker; Mackail-Smith (Hoskins, 70).
Newcastle (4-5-1): Elliott; Tavernier, Perch (Dummett, 45), Williamson, Santon; Anita, Abeid (Ranger, 45), Bigirimana, Obertan (Marveaux, 70), Sam Ameobi; Shola Ameobi.
Referee: Lee Probert.
Man of the match: Bridcutt (Brighton)
Match rating: 7/10