Cardiff City 0-3 Crystal Palace
Jason Puncheon scored twice as Crystal Palace moved seven points clear of the danger zone with an emphatic 3-0 success at fellow strugglers Cardiff City.
Puncheon’s 31st minute low drive gave the Eagles an interval advantage, a lead doubled in the 71st minute by former Bluebird Joe Leadle.
And it was winger Puncheon who made the game safe late on with a well-struck shot which flew into the corner, giving Palace their biggest away win of the season and going a long way to securing the club’s status in the Premier League.
Unsurprisingly manager Tony Pulis stuck with the same starting XI which kicked-off last week’s stunning 1-0 victory over Chelsea.
However, there were places on the bench for Danny Gabbidon and strike duo Dwight Gayle and Maroaune Chamakh, the latter making a welcome return to the fold following his recent injury.
Paddy McCarthy, Stuart O’Keefe and Barry Bannan were the trio from last weekend’s matchday squad to miss out.
Cardiff City included former Eagles favourite Wilfried Zaha in their line-up, the first time he has faced his old club since his summer switch to Manchester United.
Palace created the first early opening as an unmarked Kagisho Dikgacoi volleyed wildly over after being picked out by Puncheon’s corner.
Mile Jedinak saw his effort charged down and blocked as the visitors again caused the home side problems from a Puncheon corner.
Puncheon was not so effective when it came to having a shot on target himself, his low 14th minute drive easily gathered by David Marshall.
Zaha began to cause his former club a few problems and Julian Speroni was called into action to deal with his 18th minute angled shot after the winger had burst into the box for the third time in as many minutes.
Speroni did well to push behind Frazier Campbell’s 24th minute header and then Puncheon saw a low shot dealt with by Marshall at the other end.
Kenwyne Jones’ glancing header took a crucial final touch off Adrian Mariappa and went behind for a corner and the full-back also made another crucial interception to prevent Mats Daehli meeting Jones’ pass.
Bolasie delivered a dangerous cross into the box on the half hour but unfortunately there was nobody at the back post to get on the end of it.
But the Eagles didn’t have long to wait to get their noses in front as Joe Ledley played the ball inside to Puncheon and his low shot from just inside the area beat Marshall to stun the home fans into silence.
Joel Ward went into the book needlessly for kicking the ball away before Cardiff won several corners as the clock ticked down to half-time without ever causing Speroni any real problems.
Campbell had some joy down the left early in the second half but his final touch twice let him down badly, while Ledley had Palace’s first attempt after the restart with a 20-yard shot that went behind.
Daehli went to ground in the box under pressure from from Dikgacoi but TV replays showed there had been no foul and referee Phil Dowd rightly allowed play to continue.
Puncheon saw his 25-yard attempt comfortably saved by Marshall on the hour and Steven Caulker headed harmlessly over seconds before Zaha made way for Craig Noone.
Chamakh was introduced for Bolasie on 64 minutes as Pulis made his first switch and the substitute came to Palace’s rescue by heading the danger clear after Speroni had flapped a cross under pressure from Jones.
Palace added a vital second with 19 minutes remaining as Puncheon’s free-kick was whipped into the box and met by the head of Chamakh.
His effort was pushed out by Marshall but only into the path of Ledley who prodded the loose ball home.
Ledly came off for Jonathan Parr seven minutes later before Campbell headed just wide from a corner.
And the points were wrapped up in spectacular style in the 88th minute as Puncheon unleashed an unstoppable shot from just outside of the area which flew past Marshall and into the top corner of the net.
This is a huge result for the Eagles and could well be the one which guarantees a second consecutive year of Premier League football.
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Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward, Dikgacoi, Jedinak, Ledley (Parr 78), Puncheon, Bolasie (Chamakh 64), Jerome (Murray 82). Subs not used: Hennessey, Gabbidon, Ince, Gayle. Att: 27,687
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