Crystal Palace Under-23s earned a hard-fought victory over league-leaders Ipswich Town today at Copers Cope in a thrilling battle between first and second place.
The game began at a high tempo and Palace saw its first chance go begging when, having driven down the Eagles' left-wing, newly signed first-team midfielder Bakary Sako whipped a low ball across the edge of the penalty box to Kian Flanagan who looked likely to score, though he was crowded out by the opposition defence.
Ipswich responded shortly after when Barry Cotter had time on the right-wing to put in a testing cross which had to be nodded out of touch by Palace's Nikola Tavares.
A smart run of play then saw Palace again denied on the edge of the box as Brandon Pierrick and Malachi Boateng linked up well only for the latter's effort to crash into a hoard of defenders gathered in front of him before, moments later, Levi Lumeka threaded a fine ball across the floor to Sako, who struck with venom only to narrowly miss the inside of Adam Pryzbek's right post.
With Palace on top, Cotter attempted to steal an advantage against the run of play when, from the edge of the area, he prodded a ball at goal which shot-stopper Lucas Perri met with strength as he fell across his goalmouth to keep the score level.
Flanagan looked to break the deadlock when, having shimmied on the edge of Ipswich's box, he took aim and fired at Pryzbek's goal only to watch as the goalkeeper flew across to his left to push the ball away to safety. Breaking, the visitors were then at the other end of the pitch within seconds, though they couldn't capitalise on having caught Palace off-guard as Sam Woods hit the deck to intercept Cotter's drilled cross.
Lumeka, facing the byline, came close to opening Palace's scoring when he flashed an effort across the face of goal which sailed barely inches past the post, leaving the scoreline even. Epitomising the end-to-end nature of the match, Idris El Mizouni then struck at the Eagles' goal less than half a minute later, which Perri was equal to as he pushed it around his far post.
Palace finally broke the deadlock when Lumeka intercepted Corey Ndara's pass to burst into Ipswich's box where he squared the ball to Sako, who couldn't miss from two yards out as he struck home high and with confidence.
Running out for the second half, Ipswich found themselves playing in the ascendancy and almost opened their account when McKendry took a sublime touch, turned and struck just wide from 12 yards out.
El Mizouni finally brought the visitors level when, picking up the ball at the corner flag, he somehow drove to the edge of the Eagles' box to send an effort soaring at goal which crept over the top of Perri's outstretched fingertips for Ipswich's equaliser.
Almost immediately, Rob Street looked to make an impact with his first touch from the bench as he split Ipswich's defence with a near-perfect pass to Lumeka, who was unfortunate to be beaten to the ball by an on-rushing Przybek.
Ipswich ultimately claimed their second of the afternoon once substitute Gio McGregor saw the ball strike his arm in the box to concede a penalty. Stepping up against Perri, McKendry slotted home cooly and gave his side the advantage for the first time in the game.
Flanagan ensured that advantage didn't last long, however, as he cut into space inside Ipswich's box to strike home the leveller and give the Eagles a strong chance at going on to win the game.
Street took that chance and won it for Palace in emphatic fashion as he kept his head in the middle of Ipswich's box to rifle home with power and claim three points for the Eagles in Beckenham.
The match had more to give, though, and Palace took their fourth when Street put pressure on Ipswich's backline to force an own goal as he ensured his side ran out as victors.
Ipswich refused to lie down gently, however, and they took their third of the game seconds before the final whistle when Nydam smashed the ball home to claim a consolation for the visiting side.
Palace: Perri, Ward (Trialist 63), Mitchell, Tavares, Woods, Lumeka, Flanagan, Pierrick, Boateng, Sako (Street 63), Riedewald (McGregor 63).
Subs not used: Tupper, Brown.
Ipswich: Przybek, Cotter, Clements, McGavin, Marshall, Nydam, Ndara, Webber, McKendry (Brown 63), Foudil (Simpson 77), El Mizouni.
Subs: Hughes, Egan, Crewe.
For all the post-match reaction and full highlights of this end-to-end game, head over to Palace TV. If you're reading in the app, just click 'Palace TV'.