Following eight seasons back in the Championship, a memorable day at Wembley in May 2013 saw Crystal Palace promoted back to English football’s top flight for the 2013/14 season.
Ian Holloway, the man who had masterminded those play-off victories over Brighton and Hove Albion and Watford, brought in a raft of reinforcements over the summer as the Eagles aimed to avoid relegation from the Premier League for the first time in their history.
But despite the optimism surrounding Selhurst Park on 18th August 2013, a Roberto Soldado penalty was enough to seal a 1-0 victory for Tottenham Hotspur on the season’s opening day.
After a similar tale unfolded at Stoke City a week later, where a promising performance again went without reward, the Eagles had lift-off when goals from Danny Gabbidon, Dwight Gayle and Stuart O’Keefe secured a 3-1 win over Sunderland.
Those three points proved to be the only ones Palace could amass during a tumultuous start to the campaign though, as away defeats at Manchester United, Southampton and Liverpool were accompanied by disappointing home reverses at the hands of Swansea City and then Fulham – which led to Holloway’s departure.
Enter assistant manager Keith Millen, who laid the foundations for our recovery with a first clean sheet of the season in a 0-0 draw with Everton in November. But it was in Millen’s final game as caretaker boss against Hull City that the Eagles really began to turn the season on its head.
Despite the sending off of Yannick Bolasie in front of the on-looking new gaffer Tony Pulis, 10-man Palace rallied and stole a memorable late winner at the KC Stadium through Barry Bannan.
Although fellow strugglers Norwich City ruined Pulis’ party in his first game in charge, two home matches in a week at the start of December brought priceless wins over fellow strugglers West Ham United and Cardiff City.
Following defeats against Chelsea and Newcastle United, the Boxing Day brilliance of Gayle at Villa Park took Palace out of the bottom three for the first time since early September as a renewed belief and optimism began to take hold of SE25.
The New Year began with a draw against Norwich and, despite back-to-back defeats in north London at Tottenham and Arsenal, Palace’s form in the south of the capital was becoming imperious.
Jason Puncheon bagged crucial winners against Stoke and Hull in January, as the winger displayed a renewed guile and vigour under Pulis. The Eagles were suddenly flying and a frenetic transfer deadline day saw the additions of Wayne Hennessey, Scott Dann, Tom Ince and Joe Ledley – with the latter duo bagging debut goals in an impressive 3-1 success over West Bromwich Albion.
As winter turned to spring though, Manchester United left Selhurst Park as comfortable 2-0 victors, before clashes with Swansea City, Southampton, Sunderland and Newcastle United garnered just two points to leave the club on the cusp of being sucked back into the bottom three.
Off the back of those five games without a victory, Jose Mourinho’s title-chasing Chelsea arrived in SE25 as the hot favourites, but an own goal from Blues captain John Terry gave Palace an unforgettable win that kick-started a miraculous run of form.
A week later, Puncheon found his scintillating best once again with brilliant brace to see off Cardiff City – and the former Southampton man provided the sucker punch once more in another 1-0 home win, this time over Aston Villa, to leave the Eagles sensing survival.
The trip to Champions League hopefuls Everton four days later looked a daunting one on paper, but goals from that man Puncheon, boyhood Liverpool supporter Dann and Jerome gave Palace the three points that took their seasonal tally to that magic 40.
Then it was left to captain fantastic Mile Jedinak to dispose of West Ham with his first ever Premier League goal, which made it five consecutive top-flight wins for the Eagles and, more importantly, mathematically sealed our safety.
Home matches against Manchester City and Liverpool could then be enjoyed rather than endured – and the red and blue army certainly did just that against Brendan Rodgers’ men in what was one of the games of the season on a memorable May Monday night.
After goals from Joe Allen, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez appeared to put Palace out of sight, Damien Delaney’s deflected effort and a brace from super-sub Gayle earned the Eagles the most unlikely of points as the Selhurst season ended on an unbelievable high after a 3-3 draw.
Gayle was the man of the moment again on the final day as he added another two goals to his tally in a draw at Fulham, which left Palace celebrating their highest-ever Premier League finish of 11th.