LIVERPOOL haven't had much joy with free transfers in recent years.
Joe Cole, Philipp Degen and Andriy Voronin stand as glaring examples of how they can end up costing you a fortune.
But Craig Bellamy's match-winning display on the south coast last night suggests the fiery Welshman is set to buck the trend and take his place alongside cherished Bosman heroes like Markus Babbel and Gary McAllister.
During a summer when Liverpool spent big in order to kick-start their push for silverware it was ironic that a new signing who didn't cost a penny fired their season back on track after successive defeats to Stoke and Spurs.
It's been said Bellamy could start an argument in an empty room but no-one at the Amex Stadium was disputing the level of his contribution to this morale-boosting win.
Bellamy opened the scoring on his first start since his arrival from Manchester City with a tidy finish and then played a starring role in the second goal which was put away by Dirk Kuyt.
Ashley Barnes' late spot-kick gave Brighton hope but in truth the Reds should have long since cemented their spot in the last 16 of the Carling Cup.
Kenny Dalglish demanded a response after last Sunday's 4-0 mauling at White Hart Lane and his players delivered in impressive fashion.
They had to produce or they would have been dumped out by Gus Poyet's impressive Championship high-flyers who simply refused to admit they were beaten.
Dalglish made seven changes from the side at White Hart Lane and some of those names who were left out will be fearing for their place ahead of Saturday's league clash with Wolves at Anfield.
Bellamy and Kuyt emphatically staked a claim for the weekend and it's difficult to see how they can be overlooked.
It was a night full of positives for the manager as Steven Gerrard made his return to action after six months out with a groin injury.
The skipper came through the best part of 20 minutes unscathed and showed flashes of the kind of class Liverpool have sorely missed.
Jamie Carragher ceremoniously chucked the armband Gerrard's way when he came on and his entrance sparked a huge ovation from the away end.
There was plenty for those fans who made the long trip south to shout about with Liverpool dominating a one-sided first half.
A slow start on Sunday cost Liverpool dear but there was no repeat last night.
The Reds tore into the Seagulls from the off with Bellamy and Luis Suarez leading the charge.
Brighton simply couldn't handle their pace, movement and trickery and the pair combined brilliantly for the opening goal inside seven minutes.
Bellamy latched on to Suarez's incisive pass and from an acute angle he fired a left-footer past Casper Ankergren which flew in off the post.
Such was the understanding between Bellamy and Suarez it was hard to believe this was the first time they had started a game together.
It was the Welshman's 10th goal for the Reds and his first since he famously scored against Barcelona in the Nou Camp back in February 2007.
The 32-year-old's first spell at Anfield proved to be only a year-long cameo. After being made to sit and watch the Champions League final in Athens the writing was on the wall for him.
He's returned to Anfield via West Ham, Manchester City and Cardiff City, and looks determined to grab his second chance.
Flying into tackles and using the ball intelligently, Bellamy set the tone and the Reds should have been out of sight at the break.
Kuyt saw his header hacked off the line after Ankergren had flapped at a high ball. Then the Dutchman set Suarez clean through but his shot drifted narrowly wide.
Just past the half hour mark Suarez went even closer as he rose to meet Bellamy's free-kick and nodded against the post.
Bellamy was a hive of activity and a moment of individual brilliance almost doubled the Reds' tally.
When he stood over a free-kick 35 yards most expected a cross but he unleashed a blistering right-footer which dipped over the helpless Ankergren and crashed back off the bar.
Jay Spearing also did his chances of more regular action no harm with a tireless display and he was just inches away from his first goal for the Reds with a low 25-yarder Ankergren tipped on to the post.
Brighton bravely rallied with Scouser Craig Noone their outstanding performer. Three years ago the former Burscough winger was tiling Gerrard's roof but he has since made the grade in the professional ranks.
The lifelong Reds fan was in the away end at White Hart Lane on Sunday to cheer on his heroes and he ensured this was an uncomfortable night for his boyhood club.
On the stroke of half-time Noone found himself bearing down on Reina but the keeper parried and Martin Kelly produced a goal-saving clearance.
Noone went even closer early in the second half after pouncing on Sebastian Coates' misplaced pass but the bar denied him an equaliser.
Coates didn't allow a few errors on his full debut to dent his confidence and produced one great tackle to thwart Craig Mackail-Smith.
Liverpool finally put the tie to bed with a classy counter attack nine minutes from time.
Bellamy's sweeping pass from the left set Rodriguez galloping through the middle and the Argentinian unselfishly teed up Kuyt who coolly beat Ankergren.
The Dutchman, who was Liverpool's top scorer with 15 last season, is no longer a certain starter but played like someone with a point to prove.
Barnes halved the deficit at the death after Jamie Carragher upended Rodriguez Vicente but Liverpool march on towards Wembley.