Jermain Defoe scored the only goal of the game 10 minutes from time as Sunderland clinched a smash-and-grab victory at Selhurst Park on a frustrating evening for the Eagles.
The Black Cats striker pounced on some hesitation in defence between Scott Dann and Wayne Hennessey to tap the ball home late on in what proved to be the game’s crucial moment and grab a precious win for Sam Allardyce’s side, despite Alan Pardew’s men bossing the majority of the game.
Yohan Cabaye and Bakary Sako went close in the second half, with the Frenchman rippling the side-netting with the last kick of the game, but they were to be left annoyed at not taking anything from the encounter.
The visitors had the better of the early chances and in the first 10 minutes Steven Fletcher sliced over and Patrick van Aanholt screwed wide of the near post before Defoe had his first sight of goal when found by Lee Cattermole, but he also missed the target from just inside the area.
Palace tested Pantilimon for the first time when Yannick Bolasie embarked on a mazy dribble and got a shot off from 20 yards but it was straight at the Romanian, and it would be a similar story when midway through the first half James McArthur picked the ball up on the halfway line, drove forward and let fly from 30 yards but again it didn’t trouble the Black Cats’ custodian too much.
Pardew’s troops were having to be patient with their build-up play as they attempted to find a way through the masses of visiting defenders huddled in their 3-5-2 formation, and despite Wilfried Zaha and Bolasie pulling everything out of their bag of the tricks the breakthrough wouldn’t arrive.
Cabaye showed a hint of frustration when he shanked a shot in hope rather than expectation well wide of the mark a few minutes before the break, which the sides went into goalless.
The Eagles were relieved that was still the case five minutes into the second half when Sebastian Larsson’s corner was headed towards goal by Sebastian Coates but Cabaye was guarding the far post and hooked the ball off the line, and soon after the Frenchman had an attempt of his own from 30 yards however Pantilimon did well to push the ball to safety despite it swerving and dipping in front of him.
The Sunderland keeper was a concerned spectator just before the hour mark when Sako cut inside from the right and thumped the ball towards goal from distance but saw it flash just off target, but the Malian limped off on 70 minutes having only been introduced at half-time.
Despite that setback the pressure from the hosts was relentless and Bolasie was next to blast at goal but once again it was straight down Pantilimon’s throat, but on a rare foray forward Duncan Watmore slipped past Bolasie and after Billy Jones dribbled a shot into Jeremain Lens’ path, Wayne Hennessey was forced to muddy his jersey for the first time.
With the game on a knife edge van Aanholt played a one-two with Defoe but blazed over the bar, but the former England striker would grab the game’s opening goal in fortuitous circumstances with 10 minutes to go.
After Jones won possession from Bolasie in the middle of the park, he played a through-ball into Defoe’s path, but Scott Dann attempted to shield the ball from him. However the attacker darted the other side of the centre-back and then got the luck of the bounce when Dann prodded the ball past the advancing Hennessey, allowing him to tuck the ball into the empty net.
Palace piled forward in desperation and Cabaye forced Pantilimon into a diving save to prevent him finding the top corner, and in the final seconds he sent a free-kick around the wall but saw it go low into the side netting as Palace fell to defeat.
Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare, Cabaye, McArthur, Bolasie, Puncheon (Sako 46, Bamford 69), Zaha, Wickham (Chamakh 76). Subs: Speroni, Kelly, Jedinak, Ledley.
Sunderland: Pantilimon, Jones, Coates, O'Shea, Kaboul, van Aanholt, Cattermole, Larsson (Watmore 60), M'Vila, Defoe (Graham 86), Fletcher (Lens 60). Subs: Mannone, Yedlin, Toivonen, Johnson.