Yet more time off work, for an afternoon dash to Brighton for an evening game. Love the Friday nights though - seems to work well (incompetent railways aside) and the Amex atmosphere is often at its best.
Visitors Fulham, despite their lowly table position, arrived off the back of three straight wins, which have all but secured their Championship status. The Albion need nothing but wins at this stage though, so lined up with intent - James Wilson alongside Tomer Hemed up top, with Jiri Skalak and Anthony Knockaert tasked with supplying the bullets.
The Cottagers started beyond brightly - clever movement from Ross McCormack and partner Dembele - crisp passing between the midfield. The Albion couldn't get near the ball, let alone seize any control of the game. For a good 25 minutes the home side really laboured, though without any real scares of their own - Dunk and Goldson impressive again, in the face of a 40-goal front pairing.
Barring one speculative long ranger from Beram Kayal, the Seagulls had not had a sniff of a chance, when out of nothing the game changed. Knockaert carried the ball over the halfway line, before sliding an inch perfect ball into the path of Wilson, driving into the box. Wilson checked his run, then as Stearman moved to challenge, went again, beyond the defender. Stearman took the ill advised option of pushing the young striker, who needed no second invitation to go down. Soft but correct decision - but not in the eyes of Stearman who raged at Wilson, or Ryan Fredericks - hugely fortunate to escape censure, after charging at the referee and appearing to push him.
As Fulham seethed, one man stayed calm - Tomer Hemed stroking home his fifth penalty of the season - the most of any Championship player. Incredibly, this was the eleventh penalty scored against Fulham this season. Costly.
Just four minutes later, despite having been second best for most of the half, the Albion doubled the lead. Knockaert involved again - swinging in a free kick from the right, for Hemed once more, heading the ball back across goal beyond the despairing dive of Bettinelli.
Fulham, so composed from the outset, were suddenly all at sea. The Albion swarmed at them, and could comfortably have increased the lead further by the break. Wilson went close - a beautifully weighted pass from Kayal put him clear, and from a narrowing angle he tried to clip it over the on rushing Bettinelli, who produced a fine reaction stop.
The Amex buzzed contentedly at the interval. The first of 'five cup finals' might just not be the nerve-jangler, that I for one, was dreading. It's the kind of situation where you'd expect a few rockets to have been launched in the away dressing room, leading to some fresh determination at the restart.
It never came. Fulham had given up this game, and on 54 minutes it was over as a contest. Skalak notched up yet another assist - his in-swinging corner missed by all in the centre, allowing Bruno at the far post to bring it down, and lash home. The most popular goal at the Amex for a while - amongst the faithful, and the bearded Spaniard's team-mates. He ran to the East Stand, right in front of us, pumping his fists, before being mobbed by striped shirts - the moment captured in one of the images of the season so far. There's definitely something in this #together thing.
The team is not just about one end of the pitch though - everyone has their contribution to make, and shortly after the third, David Stockdale was able to make his. Fulham broke down the right, and the ball was squared to Christensen, eight yards from goal, to surely sweep home. The Albion keeper's reflexes came to the rescue - first extending an arm to block the shot, and then clawing away the hanging ball, as it looked certain to be prodded home.
Fulham were committing players forward now, but leaving a huge gap between their midfield and defence. James Wilson flourished in this void, collecting the ball repeatedly, and turning to run at the back four. One such drive carried him to the edge of the box, where he played a clever reverse pass to present Hemed the opportunity to complete a first Albion hat-trick. Under pressure the Israeli striker poked the ball at goal first time - denied by the legs of Bettinelli. The England U21 keeper had a mixed game - making a series of decent saves, but failing to convince under a succession of dangerous deliveries from Knockaert and Skalak.
His former mentor Stockdale was again called into action - a fine tip over, from Hyndman's long range stinger. That, on 65 minutes, was the Albion keeper's work done for the night, as any threat from the opposition evaporated.
The Albion poured forward at will now, and soon enough a special moment for Tomer Hemed. As an attack looked to have broken down, the ball was recycled by Skalak - laid back to the on-rushing Dale Stephens. The midfielder's low strike was deflected into Hemed's path, to redirect just inside the post. Bettinelli and Stearman fumed - convinced that the striker was offside. The officials consulted, and the decision (rightly) stood - the match ball was Tomer's.
With that, his number went up - Chris Hughton taking the opportunity to rest his in form striker for looming battles, and also to afford him a standing ovation from the grateful Amex crowd. Steve Sidwell, fresh from last minute heroics last time out, entered the fray. Further changes followed - minutes for Kazenga Lualua and Jamie Murhphy, in place of Skalak and Wilson.
The chances continued to flow - first Knockaert denied by a flying Bettinelli stop, then Sidwell, by Baird's desperate stretch on the goal-line. The Albion were not be denied, however - Anthony Knockaert applying the gloss to a fine evening's work - collecting Kayal's pass, cutting inside, and curling a left foot strike inside the far post. A well deserved reward for a display full of skill and effort in equal measure.
So five nil it ended - the final whistle sparking jubilation on the pitch and in the stands. As the Fulham players went over to acknowledge the remaining 10% or so of the 2000 away fans, the Albion team and their fans enjoyed a mutual love-in. Bruno and Kayal applauded each stand. Liam Rosenior ran to the family stand, and high fived every outstretched hand. Tomer Hemed returned to soak up the adulation and collect his prize.
As the last of the players left the field on a really special night, the celebrations continued in the lounges and concourses. The Albion are not going away. This thing is going to the wire.