Dougie Freedman handed a first league start to young midfielder Kyle De Silva in a team that contained five academy graduates as Palace welcomed table-topping Southampton on Easter Monday.
With Saints flying high a travelling contingent of 6,000 were hoping for a fast start but it was Freedman's side who started the better with Nathaniel Clyne in particular pushing forward well from right-back. Palace won a corner from one of Clyne's early thrusts forward and Kelvin Davis tipped over well as Kagisho Dikgacoi met Chris Martin's ball-in with a powerful header.
The Eagles' starting line-up boasted five players who have come through the club's academy and two of those, Matthew Parsons and Wilfried Zaha, linked up well down the left only for Jose Fonte to beat Sean Scannell to the ball-in.
Palace had dominated the opening exchanges but Southampton soon posed notice of their threat, Billy Sharp latching on to Jose Fonte's flick-on and firing over. Richard Chaplow and Rickie Lambert both showed their quality with good strikes from distance before Lambert saw a goal disallowed after a push from Fonte.
Down the other end Paddy McCarthy came to close to heading one of Martin's corners goalwards before De Silva showed his quality, ghosting past two men and drawing a flying save from Davis. With the Eagles in the ascendancy though it was Southampton who took the lead, an unmarked Lambert meeting Danny Butterfield's ball in and heading home powerfully.
Dean Hammond almost doubled Saints lead with a volley from distance before Palace should have levelled the scores. More good link-up play between Parsons and Zaha gave the winger an opportunity to fling in an early cross, Scannell's clever flick-on fell to Martin in space and the on-loan striker should have hit the target but blazed badly over.
The second half began with more good attacking play from Palace but ten minutes in Southampton had the ball in the back of the net again. Unsurprisingly it was the division's top scorer again, Lambert picking up on a mistake in the Palace midfield and beating McCarthy before hammering a left-footed drive into Speroni's bottom corner.
Scannell forced another good save from Davis before Lambert almost sealed his hat-trick with a wonderful volley from distance that dipped just over the bar. Nigel Adkins' side seemed to have the game sewn up but a moment of magic from Zaha almost got Palace back in the game when he beat Daniel Fox out wide only for Fonte to brilliantly intercept his cross as Martin lay poised to tap home.
Late on the Portuguese defender almost made it three at the other end but headed Adam Lallana's dangerous cross straight at Speroni and, despite the introduction of top scorer Darren Ambrose, Saints continued their march towards the Premier League with a fairly comfortable victory.
Palace: 1. Julian Speroni, 2. Nathaniel Clyne, 5. Patrick McCarthy (c), 8. Kagisho Dikgacoi, 11. Sean Scannell (7. Darren Ambrose '83) 16. Wilfried Zaha, 21. Dean Moxey, 26. Matthew Parsons, 28. Stuart O'Keefe, 35. Chris Martin, 36. Kyle De Silva 10. Owen Garvan,
Subs: 34. Lewis Price, 17. Glenn Murray, 42. Ryan Inniss
Southampton: 1. Kelvin Davis, 6. Jose Fonte, 7. Rickie Lambert (10. Guly Do Prado '77), 8. Jack Cork, 11. Billy Sharp, 12. Danny Butterfield, 13. Danny Fox (3. Dan Harding 73), 14. Dean Hammond (c), 18. Richard Chaplow (33. Steve De Ridder '89), 20. Adam Lallana, 26. Jos Hooiveld
Subs: 9. Lee Barnard, 16. Aaron Martin
Att: 18,753 (Away: 5,820)