Having held on to their prized England Under-21 striker, Bobby Zamora, during the Premiership transfer window, Brighton reaped the benefit when he scored the only goal of their game at Bradford City, his fourth in the last five matches, and the three points lifted Steve Coppell's side off the bottom of the Nationwide First Division.
Buoyed by last weekend's 4-1 defeat of Wolves, Brighton went ahead just before the half-hour when Zamora nodded in Gary Hart's right-wing cross, the referee, Graham Salisbury, consulting his assistant to confirm that the ball had crossed the line before Aidan Davison's dive cleared it.
"We've been anchored at the bottom for such a long time it's great for self-esteem and pride [to be off it]," Coppell said. "We're grateful we're now in the thick of it. March was always going to be a watershed month, with seven games in 25 days. For any squad it's a lot, for us it's massive because of impending suspensions." Hart and Zamora will both miss games.
Nicky Law, the Bradford manager, fumed at the winner. "When Zamora pulled off the far stick and headed it down he turned round as if it was nothing. Next moment the linesman is flagging for a goal, it was extraordinary."
Two points above Brighton, Grimsby Town are slipping back into trouble after a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at Gillingham. The Mariners had also enjoyed a valuable win last Saturday, 2-0 over fellow strugglers Stoke City, which lifted them out of the bottom three, but at Priestfield Rod Wallace's sharp finishing gave the Gills a 2-0 lead before 15 minutes had been played. "He's still a great player, that's why we brought him to the club," player-manager Andy Hessenthaler said. "We're starting to reap the rewards from him but he needs to keep playing and keep clear of injuries."
Wallace's first goal, in the sixth minute, came after a neat move involving Hessenthaler, who fed the ball to Paul Shaw on the wing. Guy Ipoua dummied the cross and Wallace fired in. His second goal, a neat lob after chasing Chris Hope's punt, left the Gills in commanding position.
Hope, unmarked, headed in Nicky Southall's centre on the stroke of half-time to complete Grimsby's misery.
Rotherham United got their play-off drive back in gear when they beat Coventry City 1-0 at Millmoor to move up to sixth. The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges so the Millers' manager, Ronnie Moore, acted. "After the first 10 minutes, when we sorted ourselves out and put Curtis Woodhouse to mark Gary McAllister, Coventry never looked like hurting us."
Rotherham's winner came in the 33rd minute when the Coventry defence failed to deal with a teasing ball into their penalty area and Darren Byfield swept in his 14th goal of the season. Coventry await their first League win of 2003.
With the matches involving the top three in the Second Division frozen off, fourth-placed Oldham, and Queen's Park Rangers, sixth, picked up useful wins but fifth-placed Bristol City's lost 2-0 at Notts County. The Latics won 2-1 at Stockport thanks to David Eyres' 89th-minute winner while QPR romped to a 4-0 win over Port Vale. At the bottom, Barnsley's 2-1 defeat of Chesterfield lifted them out of the bottom four.
In the Third Division, the leaders Hartlepool were held to a goalless draw at York and third-placed Bournemouth were similarly deadlocked at Bristol Rovers. Swansea City's 2-0 defeat of Cambridge United lifted them out of the demotion places.