Palace claimed back-to-back wins in the Premier League for the first time since last December in emphatic style as they thrashed Stoke City at Selhurst Park.
Filled with confidence after beating Middlesbrough last weekend, the Eagles raced into a two-goal lead thanks to efforts from James Tomkins and Scott Dann, and after the break further quick-fire strikes by James McArthur and a first Eagles goal for Andros Townsend put Palace 4-0 ahead.
Marko Arnautovic would pull back the merest of consolations for the visitors with the final kick of the game, however it couldn’t spoil a brilliant afternoon in SE25 for Alan Pardew’s men.
After a bright opening 10 minutes, Palace soon found themselves in firm control of the game by scoring twice in quick succession. Wilfried Zaha was fouled in the final third, and Townsend delivered the free-kick to the back post where Tomkins and Jonathan Walters competed, and after the Irishman inadvertently flicked the ball towards his own net, the Palace defender managed to get a touch to force it over the line and score his first in red and blue.
Selhurst was rocking, and soon Tomkins’ fellow central defensive partner joined him on the scoresheet. Straight from the restart the hosts won a corner, which this time was delivered by Jason Puncheon straight onto the head of Dann, who had made a now-trademark run from the edge of the box, and he powered it through a crowd of defenders to net a second goal in 90 seconds.
The game continued in its attacking vein and Puncheon shot straight at Shay Given before Wilfried Bony pounced on a mistake by Dann to go one-on-one with Steve Mandanda but he stroked the chance wide of the far post, before Townsend forced Given into a good save after bending an audacious free-kick towards the near post.
In the 23rd minute there was a nice ovation from all inside Selhurst as the home supporters gave a minute’s applause for Pape Souare to wish him well as he recovers from his car accident, but following that the chances dried up as a dominant Palace continued to easily contain their opponents, who totalled just one touch in the Eagles’ box before half-time.
Tomkins’ impressive home league debut ended prematurely as he limped off at the break, with Damien Delaney taking his place, with Stoke finally registering a shot on target in the opening couple of minutes however Ryan Shawcross’ tame header was comfortable for Mandanda.
But Dann once again showed how to do it at the other end, and only a well-placed Bojan managed to prevent it becoming 3-0 when the Eagles captain once again was first to meet a Puncheon corner but the Spaniard nodded off his line, and minutes later a goalmouth scramble saw Delaney, Christian Benteke and Zaha all unable to force the ball over the line from close range.
However the pressure finally told on 71 minutes when the third did arrive. Once again it was a set-piece delivery into the area that did the damage, and when Puncheon’s ball wasn’t fully cleared by Stoke it came to McArthur on the edge of the box. After getting it under control, he shifted it onto his right foot and took aim, and saw a big deflection off Geoff Cameron deceive Given and secure the three points.
With the pressure off, Palace charged forwards again three minutes later and once again found the net soon after scoring. This time it was all Townsend who picked the ball up in his own half and rampaged down the left flank before cutting inside, turning past Joe Allen and whipping the ball into the bottom corner of the net to finally open his Eagles account and make it 4-0.
Stoke were merely playing for pride in the latter stages and a late rally saw Mame Biram Diouf headed over from a corner before he fizzed the ball into Bony who couldn’t get a strike goalwards after sending Mandanda to ground, and in the final minute of normal time Jonathan Walters bent the ball wide of the mark after finding a way past the Palace keeper.
But with the final kick of the game the consolation did come when Arnautovic slammed home from the edge of the box after Bony pass deflected into his path, however it couldn’t take the gloss off what had been a wonderful afternoon for the Eagles.
Palace: Mandanda, Ward, Tomkins (Delaney 45), Dann, Kelly, McArthur, Ledley (Flamini 78), Zaha, Puncheon, Townsend (Lee 85), C. Benteke. Subs not used: Hennessey, Fryers, Sako, Wickham.
Stoke: Given, Johnson, Shawcross, Cameron, Martins Indi, Whelan, Allen, Walters, Bojan (Diouf 67), Arnautovic, Bony. Subs not used: Grant, Bardsley, Pieters, Adam, Imbula, Crouch.