The Magpies slumped to a shock 1-0 home defeat at home to Blackburn but Brighton were in danger of missing a golden opportunity to eat into their lead as they trailed Fulham at half-time.
However Hughton’s side scored twice to secure a 2-1 win and valuable three points.
“It was a big win for us, particularly as it was not one of our better performances,” Hughton said.
“They were better than us in the first half because we gave them too much room. But it shows the character of the team that, despite not being at our best, we were able to fight our way back, and that is what you need when you are up there challenging.
“It was an important win because it was unexpected for Newcastle to lose. I still feel that the team closest to Newcastle at the end of the season will have a really good chance of going up.”
It was also a good day for Mick McCarthy as Ipswich beat QPR 3-0 to move six points clear of the drop zone and to within five of a play-off spot.
In League One, a Shaun Williams penalty sparked a recovery that was completed when substitute Aiden O’Brien scored deep into stoppage-time to give Millwall a 3-2 win at Bury.
Elsewhere, Jay O’Shea scored twice as Chesterfield beat Bristol Rovers 3-2, an Anton Rodgers free-kick gave Swindon a 1-0 win over Bradford City, Mark Byrne netted in Gillingham’s 3-0 victory over Rochdale while Cian Bolger was on the mark in Fleetwood’s 2-2 draw at Wimbledon.
In League Two, Owen Garvan was among the scorers as Colchester hammered Crewe 4-0, James Collins netted in Crawley’s 3-2 win over Crewe while Patrick Hoban was on target in a losing cause as Mansfield Town lost 5-2 at Carlisle.