Despite previous opposition to the idea of expanding to three or four divisions, the Football League embraced the concept following the war, inviting all Southern League First Division sides to comprise a new Third Division for the 1920/21 season.
Following an indifferent start to the campaign, Palace went on a run of 16-games unbeaten, including eight straight victories before Easter, to help them win promotion to English football’s second tier for the first time. It sparked a summer of enhancements to The Nest, which was ready to welcome 20,000 supporters for the opening Second Division game of the 1921/22 season, against Nottingham Forest, when the Glaziers ran out 4-1 winners against the eventual champions.
Off the pitch, the club had been negotiating the purchase of a former brickfield, which was to eventually destined to become Selhurst Park. The stadium was designed by Archibald Leitch and built by Messers Humphreys of Knightsbridge at a cost of £30,000.
Although an industrial dispute delayed work on the Main Stand, meaning that parts of the stadium remained incomplete, Selhurst Park was formally opened ahead of Palace’s first match of the 1924/25 season against Sheffield Wednesday on 30th August 1924.
A disappointing 1-0 defeat that day set the tone for the Glaziers’ campaign. They won just twice between the turn of the year and the end of the season, sparking a rapid slide down the table that resulted in eventual relegation from the Second Division.
There was better news for the club off the pitch, as Selhurst Park was selected as the venue for a full international between England and Wales on 1st March 1926. But Palace continued to struggle to adapt to life back in the Third Division South, before agonisingly missing out on promotion in 1929 at the expense of Charlton Athletic, who claimed the title on goal difference.
That summer saw the arrival of a man who turned out to become a Palace legend – Peter Simpson. His debut epitomised his career in SE25 as he hit a hat-trick against Norwich. He would go on to top the club’s goalscoring charts in each of his first five seasons, bagging a record total of 165 senior goals for Palace.
But despite having the prolific Simpson in their ranks, the Glaziers could not gain promotion in 1929/30, finishing in a disappointing ninth place, before coming second again the following year. The remaining inter-war years of the 1930s were comparatively lacklustre with secretary and former manager Edmund Goodman retiring at the end of the 1932/33 season.
New manager Tom Bromilow came to Palace from Burnley, and after finishing runners-up to Notts County in 1938/39, former Palace goalkeeper George Irwin was left to steer the Glaziers through the difficult years of World War Two.