An injury-time header by Christian Benteke saw Palace recover from two goals down with half an hour to play to win 3-2 on an incredible afternoon on Wearside.
Two goals from Jermain Defoe had put David Moyes’ Black Cats in firm control, but just 60 seconds after falling two down, Joe Ledley saw a deflected shot creep in, before James McArthur headed in on 75 minutes to level the scores.
Then in the fourth minute of injury-time, Benteke dispatched a header from a free-kick delivery to turn the game on its head, and clinch Palace’s third straight league win for the first time since April 2015.
The windy conditions helped produce a scrappy first 10 minutes, but the first opportunities came to Benteke who headed straight at Jordan Pickford from a Joel Ward cross, and then a minute later the Eagles won a corner and Jason Puncheon picked out the Belgian striker, who had time to control the ball on his chest but volleyed wide from the edge of the box.
Palace enjoyed the better of the possession in the opening stages and on 25 minutes a third chance came Benteke’s way when Andros Townsend clipped a pass into Puncheon’s path, and after scrapping past Lee Cattermole and cutting the ball across the goalmouth, Benteke spun it over the crossbar from close-range.
Sunderland finally registered their first attempt when Patrick van Aanholt sped down the left and whipped a delivery into Defoe who produced an inventive flick to divert it goalwards, and despite Steve Mandanda scrambling across his line the ball flashed just wide of the far post.
Despite that scare the Eagles continued to remain on top of proceedings and Benteke scuffed a shot at Pickford and Yohan Cabaye saw an audacious half-volley arc wide, but one error proved costly as Palace handed Sunderland the chance to take the lead on 39 minutes.
Mandanda played the ball out to Ledley, who under pressure turned to pass back to one of his centre-backs, however the wayward execution was seized upon by Defoe who held off James Tomkins to tuck the ball past the Palace keeper, and despite him getting a touch it trickled into the bottom corner for the game’s opening goal.
Alan Pardew’s men had three opportunities to pull level before the break, but couldn’t quite find an equaliser to take into half-time. Once again a Puncheon corner caused problems and a fully-stretched Damien Delaney couldn't quite turn in Benteke’s cushioned header, then Townsend saw a 30-yard free-kick drift wide before Cabaye had a shot blocked after taking up a dangerous position inside the box.
Continuing in the same vein after the restart, Palace nearly made a swift 3 v 2 counter-attack pay off when James McArthur, Cabaye and Puncheon raced away and carved out an opportunity for the winger who forced Pickford beat the shot away from his top corner, but on the hour mark Defoe notched his second.
Adnan Januzaj was allowed to cut inside from the right and find the striker, who blasted at Mandanda who pulled off a great save, however the attack was recycled and Duncan Watmore’s low centre fell again for the marksman who once again displayed his predatory instincts to fire home.
But the two goal advantage lasted just 60 seconds when Palace found a strike of their own. A long diagonal pass by Delaney was chested into Ledley’s path by McArthur, and the Welshman made amends for his earlier error when his drive deflected off van Aanholt and end up in the net as the south Londoners re-established a foothold in the game.
Defoe nearly completed his hat-trick on 69 minutes when Januzaj and Watmore handed the former England striker a sight of goal but he blasted it over, but on 75 minutes the Eagles completed the comeback.
Seconds after coming on as a substitute, Zeki Fryers jinked past his man and whipped a fantastic cross into the box which was just begging for a Palace player to head into the net, and McArthur was on hand to do just that and make it 2-2.
Pardew’s players bombed forward searching for a winner and Townsend nearly got it when he cut inside from the right and bent a shot towards the bottom corner but it was fractions wide of the target, but just as the game looked to be heading for a draw, the Eagles won a free-kick by the corner flag in the final of four additional minutes when Wickham was fouled.
Once again, a fresh replacement took it and Chung-yong Lee’s clipped ball was met by the head of Benteke, and this time he made no mistake as he buried it past the despairing dive of Pickford and complete an incredible comeback.
Sunderland: Pickford, Manquillo, Kone, Djilobodji, van Aanholt, Pienaar (Watmore 15), Cattermole (McNair 85), Kirchhoff, Januzaj (Anichebe 85), Defoe, Ndong. Subs: Mika, Denayer, O’Shea, Khazri.
Palace: Mandanda, Ward, Tomkins, Delaney, Kelly (Fryers 74), Ledley, McArthur, Puncheon (Lee 90), Cabaye (Wickham 73), Townsend, C. Benteke. Subs: Hennessey, Wynter, Mutch, Sako.