The Seagulls run-in makes their situation even more perilous, as three of their final four games see them take on Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester City.
Cardiff have games against Liverpool and Manchester United to look forward to, but a visit to already relegated Fulham will give them hope of picking up the points to leapfrog Brighton.
With title-chasing Liverpool and Manchester United still to come this season, anything but a win on the south coast would have left the visitors with an improbable chance of avoiding an immediate return to the Sky Bet Championship.
Brighton 0-2 Cardiff : Bluebirds produce fantastic performance to claim all three points at the Amex Stadium
Hughton made five changes after Saturdays debacle against Bournemouth. Pascal Gross made his first start for the Seagulls since February 26, while Solly March returned after missing the last two games.
Skipper Bruno, topscorer Glenn Murray and Alireza Jahanbakhsh all returned to the starting XI as Martin Montoya, Yves Bissouma, Jurgen Locadia, Florin Andone and the suspended Anthony Knockaert dropped out.
Neil Warnock made three changes to the team that fell to a controversial 2-0 away loss at Burnley last Saturday.
Joe Ralls, Mendez-Laing, and Oumar Niasse took the places of Harry Arter, Josh Murphy, and Kenneth Zohore respectively.
This key relegation match up got off to a frantic start. Just a minute into the game and March, receiving the ball from a Bernardo throw out on the left, jinked past two Cardiff defenders but his shot from inside the box hit the side netting.
A minuter later Bluebirds keeper Neil Etheridge had to be quick off his line to clear the ball into touch as the onrushing Murray looked to pounce.
Cardiff injury news: Boost for Warnock ahead of massive match
March then went close again on six minutes as he snuffed out a loose ball to fire wide from the edge of the area.
On the ten minute mark Albion had a strong penalty appeal waved away. Lewis Dunk looked to be hauled down in the box by Bruno Ecuele Manga from a Gross free-kick but referee Andre Marriner was unmoved.
“Systems is one thing, its about a player. Pascal (Gross) weve missed in a position weve played him (No. 10) so often. But we can always talk about formations and for a change of a 4-4-1-1 to a 4-3-3, it depends how you look at it.
The game settled down after a manic opening ten minutes and the visitors already seemed intent on running down the clock. After winning a succession of free-kicks, Etheridge showed a remarkable lack of urgency in taking his kick.
ALBION 0 CARDIFF CITY 2 More home misery for Albion Seagulls just two points off drop zone Mendez-Laing scores a beauty against run of play (22) Morrison heads second (50) Live report by Brian Owen Pictures by Liz Finlayson, Simon Dack and Andrew Mathews (of PA) Full coverage in The Argus tomorrow
The panic which gripped the majority inside this arena, players and supporters alike, betrayed as much with the hosts overwhelmed by their own new-found deficiencies long before the end. Where they wilted abjectly for the second home game in succession, their approach choked by anxiety and all confidence utterly drained away, Cardiffs players and staff would congregate in front of the away support after the final whistle with belief pepped.
Read more It was quite a time to secure a top-flight away victory by a two-goal margin for the first time in 63 years. Bloody hell, I was only seven, offered Neil Warnock in the aftermath. People said it would be our last game in the Premier League, but were alive and kicking. You might think Im in cloud cuckoo land, but were more than capable of picking up points against any of the teams weve got to play left this season.
The margin for error remains slim given two of their remaining fixtures are against Liverpool and Manchester United, but the manner in which they coped under pressure bodes well. A team who had won only once in their seven previous games simply had to seize the initiative in Sussex. Brighton could bemoan the non-award of an early penalty for Bruno Ecuele Mangas grappling with Lewis Dunk – a decision going for Warnock, for once – but, in truth, Cardiff were everything Albion were not: disciplined, composed, ruthless. The visitors game-plan ended up feeling exquisite.
Read more The majesty of the goal which set the tone, in amidst all the frenetic huff and puff, had floored the hosts. Another Brighton attack had run aground just outside the penalty area, with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing sprinting upfield in possession with no opponent close enough to muster a challenge. The free-transfer signing from Rochdale would exchange passes with Junior Hoilett on the flank, Albion defenders waving him through, before whipping a sumptuous shot from distance across Mat Ryan and into the far corner.
Brighton, in truth, rarely played like a team capable of recovering even from that relatively early setback. They had started well enough, but faded as soon as they met proper resistance, and never exerted any kind of control. Instead, they looked every bit a side who had won only twice in the league this year, with even the confidence of Dunk and Shane Duffy, once the groups forte, long since shattered. Early in the second half, Victor Camarasa floated an inviting free-kick into the six-yard box where Morrison, having escaped Glenn Murray with the slightest of nudges, leapt unchecked behind Dunk – drawn under the flight of the ball – to thump his header down and across Ryan.
Chris Hughton expects his Brighton players to fight back after 5-0 home defear
As a team, as a club, and as individual players, there is only one way we can ensure we stay in this division: thats by fighting as hard as we can, he said. If were not able to score the goals we need, then we have to make sure were not conceding. Four of their last five games are against sides from the top eight. A sense of dread is growing.