Another turbulent week for Crystal Palace off the field ended with defeat on it, as West Ham United triumphed 3-1 in the Eagles' first home outing of the season.
Two classy goals in the space of three first half minutes from Mauro Zarate and Stewart Downing put the Hammers in the driving seat at a stunned Selhurst Park, before Marouane Chamakh briefly threatened to get the managerless hosts back into the game with his equally impressive strike.
But Carlton Cole's 62nd minute volley sealed victory for the boys from the Boleyn Ground as they returned to north London with three goals and three points to their name.
Palace, who were already without the injured Scott Dann, were handed a further blow during the warm up when Joe Ledley tweaked his groin and forced caretaker boss Keith Millen into a late reshuffle, which saw Stuart O'Keefe come into the midfield.
O'Keefe was involved in the first chance of the match though, as he picked out Martin Kelly in space on the right. The full back bustled his way into the penalty area and delivered a dangerous ball into the six yard box, but James Tomkins flung his body in just ahead of Chamakh to deny the Moroccan what would have been a simple finish at the far post.
Further opportunities were few and far between in the opening 20 minutes though, with Mile Jedinak seeing his shot charged down after Chamakh's classy lay off, before Joey O'Brien's cross at the other end found Carlton Cole, whose header lacked the power required to beat Julian Speroni.
But on 24 minutes the Hammers fashioned a decent opportunity in front of the Holmesdale. Downing's deep centre was retrieved well by Cole, who headed it back for Aaron Cresswell to strike, but the left-back's half volley took a deflection off Damien Delaney on its way past the post.
That served as a warning shot to the Eagles and 10 minutes later, Sam Allardyce's men had the opening goal their play had merited. A short corner routine from Ricardo Vaz Te and Mark Noble allowed the latter a shooting chance, but the stand-in captain's drive was charged down by Fraizer Campbell. But the ball looped up into the path of Zarate 20 yards out and the Argentine struck a swerving volley past his compatriot Speroni and into the bottom corner.
With 37 minutes on the clock, it got even worse for the hosts as Downing scored a superb second. The powerful Cheikhou Kouyate held the ball up well just inside the Palace half and fed the former England man, who cut inside Joel Ward onto his stronger left foot and whipped a beautifully shaped shot into the far corner past the helpless Speroni.
The Eagles came from 3-0 down in their last home match against Liverpool back in May, but Millen knew it would take a stirring half-time team talk to rally his lacklustre troops into a similar riposte this time round.
That task was nearly made even tougher just two minutes into the second period when the Hammers came within inches of putting the game out of the home side's reach. Downing's corner eluded Speroni to find Tomkins at the far post and his header cannoned back off the crossbar.
And merely 60 seconds later, Palace took full advantage of that let-off to claw themselves back into the match. Barry Bannan – pulling on the red and blue jersey for the first time since March – picked out Jedinak in an unfamiliar position on the left. The Australian cut the ball back for Chamakh 25 yards out and the former West Ham loanee smashed a well-struck shot past Adrian into the Spaniard's bottom right-hand corner to half the Eagles' arrears.
A previously dumbstruck Selhurst Park was suddenly rocking as the home faithful sensed another memorable comeback. Buoyed by his involvement in the goal, Bannan tested Adrian from distance before Fraizer Campbell went down in the box only to be told to get to his feet by referee Mark Clattenburg.
But with the hosts in the ascendency, Allardyce's men then struck a hammer blow just after the hour mark. Noble pumped a long diagonal free kick into the box and after Damien Delaney could only partially clear the danger with his header, Cole was on hand to accept the gift and drill the loose ball home from inside the box and hand West Ham breathing space for a second time.
With a two-goal deficit to chase again, Millen turned to his substitutes and threw on Jonny Williams and Dwight Gayle with 20 minutes of the 90 remaining. But it was one of the visitors' second-half introductions that came closest to netting the fifth goal of the game when Diafra Sakho's 76th minute header forced Speroni into action once more.
Williams picked out stunning pass for fellow substitute Glenn Murray in stoppage time as Palace looked to add an air of respectability to the scoreline, but the frontman's strike was beaten away by Adrian as the Hammers ran out deserving 3-1 victors.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Kelly, Hangeland, Delaney, Ward, Bannan (Williams 70), Jedinak, O'Keefe (Murray 83), Bolasie, Chamakh, Campbell (Gayle 70).
Unused subs: Hennessey, Mariappa, McCarthy, Guedioura,.
West Ham United: Adrian, O'Brien, Reid, Tomkins, Cresswell, Downing (Diame 89), Kouyate, Noble, Vaz Te, Zarate (Poyet 82), Cole (Sakho 67).
Unused subs: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Morrison, Valencia.