Dwight Gayle struck a superb curling effort in injury time to grab a vital three points which move Crystal Palace out of the bottom three but leave Aston Villa closer to the drop.
The game looked to be heading for stalemate when Gayle was sent clear on the left by Palace full-back Dean Moxey. With only Villa midfielder Fabian Delph to beat, the 24-year-old second half substitute skipped inside on his right foot and curled a sumptuous effort into the top right corner leaving Villa ‘keeper Brad Guzan completely helpless.
The 1 – 0 win means Palace move out of the relegation zone while for Aston Villa on a run of four straight defeats, the danger zone moves ever closer. The 37,000 home fans were quick to vent their anger at both the Villa team and manager Paul Lambert who left the pitch to a loud chorus of boos.
The first half was poor with both teams struggling to create chances and both goalkeepers having little to do. The second half was a little more lively with former Villa player Barry Bannan forcing a fine save from Guzan and team-mate Jason Puncheon failing to capitalise on two very good opportunities.
Palace boss Tony Pulis sent on Gayle and Moxey and the two substitutes combined for the winner which was a quick counterattack after Villa pushed men forward in a desperate attempt to try and secure the spoils.
Villa have struggled to carve out openings in recent matches and two half chances from striker Andreas Weimann and a late header by substitute Jordan Bowery were the best they could muster.
After the game Villa boss Paul Lambert said the fans had a right to vent their anger after his team’s current run of poor results which leave Villa just three points above the relegation zone. “The only way to bounce back is by winning," he said.
“It’s a challenge I am not going to wilt under. I’ve never wilted. It’s a fight and I’m gonna fight it. I’m not going away from it.”
Palace manager Tony Pulis praised his team who he said worked very hard to a man but with Manchester City next, he said it was too early to get carried away.