Glenn Murray insisted Brighton and Hove Albion's Premier League survival was "still in the balance" but the veteran forward's brace fired the Seagulls to a victory that may ultimately prove decisive in keeping them in the top flight.
A 4-1 win over fellow strugglers Swansea City on the south coast halted the Welsh club's surge up the table and slung Albion skyward and into eleventh place.
Swansea had claimed 11 points from their last five league games to escape the bottom three but they slid back below the trap door after being swept aside by a slick Brighton side.
Murray converted an 18th-minute penalty after being fouled by Mike van der Hoorn and took his league tally to 10 for the season after the break, slotting in Jose Izquierdo's cut-back.
Anthony Knockaert, who had a goal ruled out for offside, made it 3-0 when he raced on to a through ball by Pascal Gross.
Lewis Dunk's own goal, his fourth of the season, offered Swansea some late hope but Dutchman Jurgen Locadia's goal on his Premier League debut completed the rout.
"It was important we got the three points and moved up the table a little bit," Murray said.
"It's still in the balance and we can't take our foot off the pedal. But to move out of the mire is nice."
Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal, whose appointment has transformed the Welsh club's season, said individual mistakes had cost his side dearly and forced him to gamble.
"The story is we tried to turn it around by putting more players into attack in the second half because we were losing and we wanted to win three points," he said.
"We reacted well to their first goal. We took a player from midfield and put them up front, we knew that was a big risk.
"We'd either win or the opponent would score. We took those risks very early. That's football, it was a high risk bet."
Additional reporting by Reuters
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies