STEVE BRUCE'S position as Newcastle United manager is hanging by a thread after his side turned in a desperate performance against relegation rivals Brighton.

The Magpies went into this evening's game at the Amex Stadium knowing a win could leave them five points clear of the relegation side.

However, rather than taking the game to a Brighton side that had only claimed one home win all season, Bruce's side failed to record a single shot on target as they crashed to yet another embarrassing defeat.

Attention now turns to Mike Ashley, and whether the Newcastle owner, who is currently understood to be in the Middle East, will decide to sack his manager.

The Magpies have nine games to save their Premier League skin, and with the international break creating a two-week window before the club's next game against Tottenham, Ashley must decide whether to dismiss Bruce, even though such a move would cost him around £4m in compensation commitments.

Leandro Trossard’s curled opener put Brighton ahead just before the break. Danny Welbeck then doubled the Seagulls' lead with a well-struck shot into the corner six minutes into the second half, and Neal Maupay’s 68th-minute volley sealed all three points.

The result leaves Newcastle just two points ahead of 18th-placed Fulham, although the Cottagers have played one game more.

Brighton started brightly, with Jakub Moder forcing Martin Dubravka into a low save inside the opening five minutes.

After 30 minutes, the Seagulls had enjoyed 75 per cent of the possession, with five shots including two on target, with Newcastle yet to have an attempt.

Newcastle had to wait until the 37th minute for their first meaningful chance when Jamaal Lascelles headed wide at the far post.

Moments later, Maupay had a good opportunity at the other end after being picked out by Trossard, but his shot was blocked by Ciaran Clark.

Matters got worse for Newcastle just before the half-time break, when Isaac Hayden was hurt in a challenge with Yves Bissouma, and he had to be carried off on a stretcher.

Moments later, Brighton took the lead, having dominated throughout the first half, with Trossard picking up the ball on the edge of the box before turning and curling it into the top corner.

Newcastle had an opportunity to level the game at the start of the second half, when Miguel Almiron found Ryan Fraser in space on the left, and the Scotland international curled the ball towards the goal, only for it to bounce out off the woodwork.

However, the Seagulls struck back immediately, Welbeck doubling the home side’s advantage.

The 30-year-old former Manchester United forward cut inside on to his right foot before firing the ball into the back of the net from 20 yards.

In the 68th minute, Brighton made sure of the points when Pascal Gross crossed for Maupay, who volleyed the ball into the net.

The Brighton number nine had been without a goal in his previous nine games.