Palace's development side were beaten by the odd goal in five as Exeter City caused an Under-21 Premier League Cup upset at Selhurst Park.
First-team quartet Jonny Parr, Jose Campana, Jimmy Kebe and Cameron Jerome were all included in the starting line-up, but they could not inspire the Eagles youngsters to cup victory as a Tom Nichols brace helped the visitors to a memorable win in the inaugural competition.
It had all started so brightly for Palace though who took the lead with just five minutes on the clock. Jerome Williams bombed forward into a crossing position and pulled the ball back for Kyle De Silva. He controlled well with a neat first touch, before firing his second across Christy Pym and into the far corner of the net.
The Grecians responded well though and were level just three minutes later. Parr was pressed on the edge of his own box by two Exeter forwards and, when his under-hit pass towards Alex Wynter was intercepted by Tom Nichols, he opened his body before coolly placing a right-footed shot past the helpless Lewis Price.
And it wasn't long before the striker doubled his money with a goal that was almost a carbon-copy of his first. Another first-teamer Campana was guilty of giving the ball away this time, as his ball across the back line was cut out by the menacing Nichols. And he produced a similar curling right-footed finish from just outside the box this time that nestled in the left-hand corner of Price's net to put the Devon outfit in front.
Gary Issott's men were rocking and they should have found themselves further behind on 25 minutes. Nichols threatened a hat-trick but saw his ambitious shot deflected wide, and from Matthew Grimes' resulting corner, the ball ricocheted to Jordan Moore-Taylor who somehow managed to sky his volley over the crossbar from inside the six-yard box.
The underdogs continued their search for a third as Grimes' free-kick from the corner of the penalty box forced Price into a decent stop, but they were hit by a sucker punch on the half hour mark. Kebe showed his strength and pace to beat Jacob Wannell, before getting his head up to pick out Sullay Kaikai, who had the simple task of tapping in from 10 yards to bring Palace level against the run of play.
Five minutes from half time, Jerome had a chance to make amends for his earlier miss. Price's long punt forward looped over the Exeter back four, but the Stoke loanee could only slice his left-footed volley wide as the two sides went in at half time all square.
The visitors started the second period in the same attacking vein though as Nichols found Gosling, whose arrowing left-footed drive seemed destined for the back of the net, only for Price to parry the ball around the post.
A minute later, it was Palace's turn to attack as Parr cut inside and whipped in a left-footed cross for Jerome, who hit the target with his header this time, only to be denied by Pym.
But just after the hour mark, the Grecians edged back in front after another defensive error from the Eagles. After having two bites of the cherry to clear their lines, the ball fell kindly for Matthew Jay who played a neat give-and-go with Nichols on the edge of the box and made no mistake to sidefoot past Price.
That same forward combination nearly reaped rewards again for Exeter moments later. But Jay was this thwarted by the boot of Price when he looked odds-on to bag his second and extend the Grecians' advantage.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, Issott made a bold triple change, throwing on Conor Dymond, Ibra Sekajja and Nabil Guedioura in place of first-team trio Campana, Kebe and Jerome. And it was Sekajja who had Palace's next clear-cut opportunity after finding himself in the clear from Kaikai's slide-rule pass, only to be denied by Pym down to his left.
Time was running out for the Eagles and the home contingent were up in arms with just eight minutes remaining when De Silva went down in the penalty area under a clumsy challenge from Wannell, but nothing was given.
And Palace thought they had forced extra time with the final kick of the game, when a flighted free-kick picked out Wynter at the back post. The under-21 captain headed brilliantly back across goal for Chambers, who powered his header beyond Pym, but the flag had already been raised for offside against his central defensive partner.
In truth, it would have been lightly cruel on Exeter City, who advance to the next round to face Southampton.
Palace: Price, Parr, Wynter, Chambers, Jerome Williams, Boateng, Campana (Dymond 70), Kaikai, Kebe (Sekajja 70), De Silva, Jerome (Nabil Guedioura 70).
Palace subs: Fitzsimons, Taylor.
Exeter City: Pym, Dawson, Tillson, Moore-Taylor, Wannell, Keohane, Grimes, Gosling (Chamberlain 86), Jay (Jagger-Cane 81), Nicholas, Wheeler (Watkins 76).
Exeter City subs: Hamon, Riley-Lowe.