The Seagulls took advantage of Newcastle dropping home points in a 2-2 draw against Bristol City to move above them in the battle at the Sky Bet Championship summit.
Goals from Sam Baldock, Jamie Murphy and Anthony Knockaert made it seven wins from their last eight home league games to put Albion six points clear of third-placed Huddersfield.
Hughton is now relishing the visit of Newcastle to the Amex Stadium on Tuesday in the battle of the top two, and reacted cautiously when asked if he could smell the Premier League now.
He said: “After having, by our standards, a difficult period it’s nice to have two clean sheets in our last two games and it’s a nice feeling on the back of two very good victories.
“But there are so many good teams in this division. Huddersfield have gone on a run, Leeds have done well and Sheffield Wednesday are in there.”
Hughton said his side’s latest win does not give Brighton the psychological edge over his former club Newcastle going into Tuesday’s clash.
He added: “Going into every game you play, there will be an opposing manager trying also to give his side the edge.
“Newcastle are a very good side and were many people’s favourites to win the league. We will have another full house.”
Hughton felt Albion were back to their best against Reading and said: “It was more like us.”
When asked whether the win was perfect timing ahead of tackling Newcastle, Hughton said: “They are all tough games. Our levels will have to be high to beat them. If we can produce this kind of performance, it’ll give us a chance.”
Reading’s second successive defeat is a further blow to their hopes of automatic promotion, and manager Jaap Stam admitted they contributed to their own downfall.
Former Manchester United defender Stam said: “We lost the ball on the counter-attack and Brighton scored three times.
“Against top teams and teams like Brighton you make it difficult for yourself.
“Against sides like this you get punished straight away. Going forward we didn’t create enough.”
Stam insists his men have learnt a lot this season, his first in charge, and believes that is an important factor as they look to build on their top-six position.
He added: “The team have learnt a lot to be in the top six. Last season they were 19th.
“Going to the top and staying at the top is a lot more difficult. We have some important games coming up in the last two months.”
Brighton missed out on automatic promotion only on goal difference last season, and Stam believes the way the Seagulls have built on it serves as a great example to follow.
“Brighton are building towards promotion and it’s taken three seasons. You need to build and the players need to learn and adapt,” Stam said.
“Everybody works hard in our team, it’s about a team effort. It has worked out well, but the final two months will be tough.”