Gareth Taylor’s team made it four WSL wins in a row and 13 successive league games unbeaten in a hard-fought victory at Broadfield Stadium.
Shaw’s double put her on 26 goals across all competitions, meaning she overtakes Nikita Parris, who struck 24 goals during the 2018/19 campaign when City claimed a domestic cup double.
Brighton may be second-from-bottom in the division but they were a hugely committed opponent on an afternoon when the three points were hugely appreciated.
City went in level at the break – despite a strong start to the half.
Gareth Taylor’s team laid down a marker as early as the second minute with Lauren Hemp, always a nuisance for the opposition, twisting and turning down the left before chipping an inviting ball into the box which the visitors did well to clear.
Then it was the other wonder winger, Chloe Kelly, causing problems as her low ball in from the right on three minutes found a stretching Bunny Shaw, a few yards out, who eventually fired over Megan Walsh’s bar.
There was a terrible mix-up for Albion on four minutes as they tried to play out from the back but Shaw regained possession for the visitors and fired a shot which was well charged down to Kelly who also had an effort at goal blocked determinedly by the hosts.
Shaw was unfortunate again on five minutes as she was beaten to a delicate ball down the middle via Laura Coombs by Walsh in the Albion goal.
Kelly’s protests for a penalty were waved away by the referee on seven minutes as the winger felt she’d been brought down in the box.
She was in the heart of the attack throughout the first half and saw goalbound efforts well stopped by Walsh on 10 minutes and 16 minutes, with Veatriki Sarri having an effort disallowed for offside for the hosts in the middle of that on 12 minutes.
Hemp tried to find Shaw on 18 minutes as she pulled a ball back from the left byline but it was well cleared by the dogged Albion backline.
Brighton couldn’t stop in-form Shaw on 21 minutes though as she prodded home from close-range following brilliant build-up play from elegant midfielder Yui Hasegawa.
That was Shaw’s 14th WSL goal of the season but, even more importantly, her 25th across all competitions, ensuring she became Manchester City’s highest-scoring women’s player across a single season.
Rather than City extending our lead in the first half, it was Brighton who came back into it.
They thought they’d levelled on 27 minutes as they wheeled away after the ball found the net but the referee’s assistant’s flag for offside chalked it off.
But on 33 minutes, they had their equaliser, with a bit of individual excellence from Elisabeth Terland, who curled a shot past Sandy MacIver.
Zoe Morse nearly gifted City the lead again on 40 minutes as she almost scored an own-goal, deflecting a Hemp cross from the left just over her own bar.
City were back at it as the second half began and it was hotshot Shaw who again went close, firing a flicked shot straight at Walsh from a dangerous Hemp ball in from the left on 48 minutes.
There was an even better chance to take the lead on 53 minutes, Kelly beating her marker down the right before flashing a cracking cross into the box but Coombs couldn’t find the right connection as Walsh gathered more comfortably than she should have been able to.
MacIver made a smart save on 57 minutes as she got down low to deny the onrushing Katie Robinson from the Albion right channel.
Shaw turned on the spot brilliantly on the hour mark but her left foot strike deflected comfortably into the arms of Walsh.
It was one-way traffic at this point and Walsh, having an inspired afternoon in the Albion goal, tipped Kelly’s fierce 20-yard shot over her bar on 63 minutes after the winger had charged free down the right.
Kelly did it again on 70 minutes but, this time, her effort sailed wide of Walsh’s right-hand post, with Hemp unable to reach it as it went out of play.
City continued to push as the second half continued but Albion were holding strong, Alex Greenwood seeing a 25 yard blast sail over the bar on 85 minutes.
Just when it looked like a winner wasn't going to be forthcoming, Shaw was there right place, right time.
She popped up with a brilliant poacher's finish on 89 minutes to bring a hugely valuable three points back to the Academy Stadium.
That represented her 26th across all competitions this campaign, a truly remarkable tally.
It's also a record for City Women and one she should be very proud of!
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: BUNNY SHAW
Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw has become Manchester City’s highest-scoring women’s player across a single season.
The Jamaican grabbed two against Brighton & Hove Albion, taking her tally to an astonishing 26 goals this term.
The record had previously been held by Nikita Parris, who struck 24 goals during the 2018/19 campaign when City claimed a domestic cup double.
Third on the illustrious list is Pauline Bremer who scored 22 in 2019/20 while Lauren Hemp is fourth with 21 in 2021/22.
However, those tallies have now been surpassed by Shaw, who is also on course to claim the WSL golden boot.
Huge congratulations, Bunny!
HOW WE LINED UP
Sandy MacIver started between the sticks, shielded by a back four of Laia Aleixandri, Steph Houghton, Alex Greenwood and Leila Ouahabi.
Yui Hasegawa started at the base of the midfield, with Filippa Angeldahl and Laura Coombs given licence to get forward and support the attack.
At the sharp end, Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp started on the wings with Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw at centre-forward.
Brighton XI: Walsh, Pattinson, Kullberg, Morse, Bergsvand, Connolly (Bance 66’), Zigiotti, Lee, Robinson, Sarri (Fox 88’), Terland (Carter 81’)
Unused subs: L Williams, Startup, V Williams, Visalli, Park
City XI: MacIver, Aleixandri, Houghton (C), Greenwood, Ouahabi (Casparij 75’) Hasegawa, Angeldahl, Coombs (Fowler 75’), Kelly, Shaw, Hemp
Unused subs: Roebuck, Stokes, Castellanos, Morgan, Blakstad, Dahou
WHAT IT MEANS
City are third in the table and within touching distance of the WSL summit.
Our 2-1 win at Brighton ensured we are now on 35 points, just three points behind leaders Chelsea, who jumped into top spot after a 1-0 win over the Red Devils in the day’s early game.
We’re in FA Cup action in our next game as we travel to Aston Villa.
We face Carla Ward’s side in the quarter-finals of the prestigious competition on Sunday 19 March, kick-off 18:00 (UK time), with the match taking place at Poundland Bescot Stadium.
In our two games against the Villans to date, we’ve picked up a defeat and a draw so we’re looking for a win in this one to complete the full collection of results.
In the WSL, it was 1-1 here at the Academy Stadium in January while we lost 4-3 away from home in our opening league game of the campaign at Villa Park.
If we emerge victorious from this one, we’re through to the last four of the competition.
The other quarter-final ties see Reading host Chelsea, Lewes host Man Utd and Birmingham host Brighton.