Substitute Adelina Engman grabbed an injury-time goal to snatch a point for Chelsea in Sussex, as a tireless Brighton & Hove Albion side almost left with all three in an intriguing Barclays FA WSL encounter.

A healthy crowd was treated to beautiful late summer sunshine and an entertaining affair at the People’s Pension Stadium in Crawley and, despite chances for both teams, it seemed neither side would break the deadlock.

But the Seagulls appeared to have earned a victory when Aileen Whelan scored with six minutes to go, only for Engman to pull off her injury-time heroics.

England defender Mille Bright was the first to go close, blazing over from just inside the penalty box when the ball sat up kindly for her and just 90 seconds later Bethany England should have scored when she found herself with time and space in front of Megan Walsh – but promptly dragged her effort wide of the far post.

Chelsea’s opening-day matchwinner, Erin Cuthbert, was then teed up by England, only to have the ball nicked from her toes after waiting a fraction too long and despite the towering efforts of Victoria Williams, Brighton were hanging on.

They eventually found some solidity, jostled on by the combative Danielle Bowman, and fired a warning of their own when Ini Umotong’s persistence saw her win a 50-50 ball, before teeing up Lea Le Garrec.

The French midfielder hit a rasping drive just wide to serve notice that Hope Powell’s charges were still very much alive.

Even though Brighton soaked up plenty more pressure in the second half – Drew Spence having the best chance, drawing a great, round-the-post, save from Walsh – Whelan delivered a sucker-punch to Chelsea minutes from time.

She pounced on Danique Kerkdijk’s cushioned header to fire a half-volley past Berger and seemingly snatch an unlikely victory for the hosts.

But just when it seemed like the Seagulls had completed a classic ‘smash and grab’ job, Engman prodded home following a goalmouth scramble to keep both team’s unbeaten starts to the new season intact.

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Richmond and Twickenham Times:

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes: “We need to take a little bit more responsibility, and I’ve said that to the players. We created opportunities but haven’t taken our chances and, yes, that’s disappointing.

“It’s still early season and there’s a long way to go, and we know there’s still plenty we need to do on the training pitch this week.

“As I said though, we must take responsibility when we’re out on the pitch and as much as I will ask more of myself, the players need to do similar.

“Credit to Brighton, because they made it very difficult for us, especially when they got lower in their defensive block – but that wasn’t a surprise to us.

“The quality in every team in this division has gone up this year, and we have to be ready to deal with these sorts of challenges when they’re put in front of us.”

Brighton manager Hope Powell: “I’m really pleased with the way my girls conducted themselves because they couldn’t have given any more.

“Just look at that Chelsea team. They’ve got international players in pretty much every position and I don’t think anyone would have backed us to get anything from the game.

“We followed the game plan to a tee, and to come within a whisker of winning it shows the progress this group is making.

“Even when we were having to dig in and be resilient – we were more than happy to let them have the ball and concede space – the desire was in us to want to play when we had it, and I think we showed that in the second half especially.

“We’ll take the point and look to the next challenge, because the competition is now tougher than ever and we’re going to have put in plenty of this type of performance if we want to achieve our goals.”

Brighton & Hove Albion: (4-5-1): Megan Walsh; Fliss Gibbons, Victoria Williams, Danique Kerkdijk, Matilde Lundorf; Aileen Whelan, Megan Connolly, Danielle Bowman, Lea Le Garrec, Ellie Brazil; Ini Umotong

Substitutes: Kayleigh Green for Umotong 64, Emily Simpkins for Le Garrec 84

Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Ann-Katrin Berger; Jonna Andersson, Magdalena Eriksson, Millie Bright, Maren Mjelde; Sophie Ingle; Guro Reiten, Ji So-Yun, Drew Spence, Erin Cuthbert; Bethany England

Substitutes: Ramona Bachmann for Spence 64, Adelina Engman for Cuthbert 81, Maria Thorisdottir for Ingle 84

Referee: Lee Collins

Attendance: 1,352