A combination of venomous long-range volleys and scrappy set-piece strikes meant that Palace were blown away 4-1 by a deadly Fulham on a miserable Monday night for The Eagles.
Having taken an early lead through Adrian Mariappa, Palace were stunned when Pajtim Kasami blasted home a wonderful volley from the edge of the area and were dealt a hammer blow when Steve Sidwell found the net from long range just before the break, but two converted corner kicks soon after the restart ensured Palace remain entrenched in the relegation zone.
With both sides stranded at the bottom end of the table many inside Selhurst for kick-off could have expected a tight, gritty affair but it took just nine minutes for the deadlock to the broken, and it was the fans in red and blue who were rejoicing.
A corner from Jose Campana was cleared by the visitors but the Spaniard quickly found the ball back at his feet. He then fed a clever ball into the path of Jason Puncheon whose cross was deflected skywards but Mariappa outjumped the man-mountain Brede Hangeland to net his first Eagles goal.
However despite Palace pressing for a second Fulham countered and grabbed an equaliser in breathtaking style on 20 minutes. A long ball by Sascha Riether was controlled on the chest by Pajtim Kasami on the corner of the area, and he attempted a volley on the run from a ridiculous angle which flew past the helpless Julian Speroni to score one of the goals of the Premier League season.
Time and time again Ian Holloway’s side threatened to regain the lead, with the biggest threat coming from the twinkle-toed Yannick Bolasie. Handed his first top-flight start, the winger cut inside from the left on 33 minutes and took aim but hardly tested Martin Stekelenberg.
But the Eagles suffered a hammer blow seconds before half-time as the west-Londoners added a second sensational Bryan Ruiz’s free-kick smacked off the Palace wall and rebounded straight into the path of Steve Sidwell, and the midfielder lashed a volley high into Speroni’s net as the Cottagers celebrated their second sensation strike which gave them an undeserved lead at the interval.
Falling behind seemed to affect the home side as they saw the game slip away by conceding twice from corners in quick succession. Three minutes after the restart a routine clearance by Speroni struck Dimitar Berbatov who casually backheeled into Darren Bent’s feet but the former England hitman was thwarted by the Argentine glovesman, but from the resulting set-piece Ruiz whipped in a dangerous ball and the Bulgarian striker outmuscled Mariappa to head into the far corner.
Everything Martin Jol’s men threw at Palace ended up in the net and four minutes later Ruiz looked for the back post and found Philippe Senderos who acrobatically scissor-kicked towards goal, and despite the best efforts of Speroni the ball crossed the line as the hosts began to unravel.
With the result in the bag the away side sat back and this allowed the Eagles a few sniffs at goal. Joel Ward dribbled into the area before skying his attempt, Stuart O’Keefe hit the ball straight at Stekelenberg and Jerome Thomas blazed a free-kick over in the latter stages.
Kasami almost added another spectacular goal to his portfolio when he smashed a first-time effort with the outside of his foot towards the top corner which Speroni dived to keep out at full stretch, and prevented the scoreline from getting any uglier for the Selhurst faithful.
Palace: Speroni, Ward, Mariappa, Delaney, Moxey, O'Keefe, Jedinak, Campana (Thomas 46), Puncheon (Chamakh 55), Bolasie, Gayle (Phillips 69). Subs: Price, Gabbidon, Dikgacoi, Kebe.
Fulham: Stekelenburg, Riether, Senderos, Hangeland (Amorebieta 46), Richardson, Parker, Sidwell, Kasami, Ruiz, Berbatov, Bent (Duff 77). Subs: Stockdale, Zverotic, Karagounis, Boateng, Rodallega.