Brighton is now back in the hands of the locals, but for a few hours on Sunday, something fishy happened as the town fell to an invasion by Harry Haddocks.
Grimsby supporters went everywhere with their inflatable friends, the League Two club shop selling 3,000 for this trip. They took to the streets with them, they took over the pubs, they took over Brighton Pier which was awash with black and white striped shirts.
Grimsby fans were determined to enjoy their day, well aware that this would likely be the end of their FA Cup journey. It was, with Brighton mercilessly sticking a pin in their Harry Haddocks, but the visitors can look back with pride at their longest run in this competition since 1939.
Two goals from Evan Ferguson and the others from Deniz Undav, Solly March and Kaoru Mitoma secured Brighton this win, which was exactly as planned for the side 76 places higher up the league ladder.
They will now progress to the semi-finals at Wembley, after Roberto De Zerbi has shown his intent with a sensible starting line-up at the Amex Stadium.
Grimsby manager Paul Hirst joked half an hour before kick-off that, looking at the squad sheet, he feared Brighton had forgotten that they were facing a team that were 15th in League Two.
De Zerbi, who was serving a touchline suspension for this tie, selected a team from Premier League regulars. That included a guy who helped Lionel Messi win the 2022 World Cup, and a guy who was subject to a £70m offer from Arsenal in the winter window.
Brighton (4-2-3-1): Sánchez, Grob, Webster, Dunk, Estupinán, Caicedo, Mac Allister, March, Undav, Mitoma, Ferguson
Substitutes: Colwill, Welbeck, Sarmiento, Enciso, Steele, Ayari, van Hecke, Veltman, Buonanotte
Top scorers: Undav (6′) Ferguson (51′, 70′), March (82′) Mitoma (90′)
Manager: Roberto De Zerbi
Grimsby (5-4-1): Crocombe, Efete, Smith, Waterfall, Maher, Driscoll-Glennon, Clifton, Green, Holohan, Khan, Orsi
Substitutes: Pearson, Emmanuel, McAtee, Battersby, Hunt, Morris, Amos, Taylor, Khouri
Director: Paul Hurst
But in a way, that summed up the beauty of the FA Cup. Alexis Mac Allister may be a world champion, but if he wanted to win here, he had to outplay Gavan Holohan in midfield. Moises Caicedo may be a wanted man, but to get to Wembley, he had to beat Kieran Green.
Caicedo stepped in as Brighton took a lead after six minutes. His attempt from 20 yards was deflected by Grimsby goalkeeper Maxime Crocombe and Undav ran in to take advantage of the rebound to make it 1-0.
‘Que sara sara, whatever, it will be, we’re going to Wembley’, sang the Brighton fans. To which the Grimsby contingent replied, ‘We only sing when we’re fishing.’
After half an hour, Brighton had seen 75 per cent of the ball. Grimsby looked a lot like a League Two side trying to keep up with a Premier League side, but they were hoping for some help on 32 minutes.
A long ball had to be picked up by Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sánchez before Danilo Orsi got to it. Sánchez took him in his arms, but Orsi claimed that he was out of his box. Referee Jarred Gillett awaited word from VAR Michael Salisbury, who decided that Sanchez was inside.
Brighton should have scored a second goal when Pascal Gross’s cross found Mitoma sliding at the far post, only for the talented Japan international to miss. Mitoma returned the favor by squaring up a pass to Gross but with the goal at his mercy, he also missed the goal.
Brighton should have been out of reach at half time, but their lead remained slim. The closest Grimsby came to threatening Sanchez’s goal was when Lewis Dunk struck over a back pass that needed to be stopped before he crossed the line.
Otherwise, Grimsby had not attempted a shot, on or off target. You expected Brighton to break down their defense and that’s what they did on 51 minutes.
Mac Allister’s ball in the box was torn out of the air by Ferguson. It was a beautiful takedown, and the teenager then slotted his shot past Crocombe for 2-0.
Brighton thought they had a third when March selflessly sent the ball to Ferguson, but VAR ruled it out for offside, prompting someone at the away end to let loose a party.
Then a rare opportunity for Grimsby. It was the first route as substitute John McAtee broke behind Adam Webster before attempting to pass the ball past Sanchez, who palmed it clear.
Brighton made it 3-0 in the 70th minute after some quick passes and lucky deflections left Ferguson in goal. Without hesitation, he found the bottom corner.
In minute 82, the 4-0. The Brighton fans chanted ‘ole’ every time the ball was passed and at the end of some exquisite play, Webster’s cross found March’s head.
In minute 90 the score was completed 5-0. It wasn’t the cleanest hit from Mitoma as a deflection from Luke Waterfall fooled Crocombe, but everyone counts.
The home supporters applauded the Grimsby players off the pitch at normal time. His FA Cup run is over, but De Zerbi can yet cap his impressive season in charge of Brighton with a trophy.