The Blades spent their winter break in Dubai, while their top-five rivals failed to make any notable headway in their absence. United was on its way to matching fourth-placed Chelsea's win against Tottenham earlier in the day when Enda Stevens blasted the hosts in front in the 26th minute.
However, Neal Maupay equalized four minutes later to earn a point that pushed Brighton further clear of the relegation zone, though Graham Potter's side is without a league win in seven matches. United was dominant in the second half, with Brighton goalkeeper Mathew Ryan making a point-blank save to deny Oliver McBurnie near the end.
The draw kept the Blades in sixth place, although they were tied on points with fifth-placed Tottenham. Both are four points adrift of Chelsea. However, fifth place is enough to qualify for the Champions League because second-placed Manchester City was punished last week with a two-year ban from European competitions for breaching financial regulations. City has said it will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
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