On a memorable night at Selhurst Park, Palace took another huge step towards safety as they put in one of their finest performances of recent times to cruise to victory against Arsenal.
Sam Allardyce’s team were easily the better side throughout and led at half-time thanks to Andros Townsend’s tap-in, and then after the break two goals in six minutes from Yohan Cabaye and Luka Milivojevic sealed the Eagles’ first win against the Gunners in 23 years, and their first in SE25 since 1979.
Arsenal only arrived at Selhurst Park 45 minutes before kick-off and this seemed to affect them with Palace bossing proceedings throughout the game, and the scoreline merited their dominance. It all began just three minutes in when Wayne Hennessey pumped a free-kick into the box which was controlled by Mamadou Sakho and he found his compatriot Cabaye who miscued, and then soon after his midfield partner Milivojevic took aim from 25 yards and blasted just wide.
A rare foray forward by the Gunners saw Hennessey called upon to make his first save of the evening when a snapshot from Mohamed Elneny came through a sea of defenders, and despite seeing it late the Eagles stopper managed to get his fingertips to the curler and push it to safety.
But like at Southampton five days earlier, the Eagles took the lead with another brilliant, intricate, well-worked goal after 17 minutes. Townsend was instrumental in it, picking up the ball in the centre of the field and finding Cabaye, and then in front of the Gunners backline they exchanged passes once again before the Frenchman handed it to the overlapping Zaha. Despite slipping, he managed to steer the ball to Townsend and the former Tottenham man gleefully fired home from six yards out to crank up the volume inside the old ground.
Despite seeming slightly underprepared, Arsenal still boasted the talents of one of the top-flight’s biggest attacking threats in Alexis Sanchez and he twice went close when he drifted inside from the left and aimed for the far post, with Hennessey comfortably saving the first attempt before a more accurate effort skimmed narrowly wide.
As it approached half-time, Palace nearly made it 2-0 when Zaha found Christian Benteke on the edge of the box but despite the ball taking an unfortunate bobble in front of him, he still managed to hammer the ball goalwards and force Emiliano Martinez to push his stinging blast wide, and an enthralling half came to a close with Hennessey easily claiming a Gabriel header to ensure his side went into the interval ahead.
Allardyce’s Eagles came out all guns blazing after the restart and after Benteke saw a shot on the turn deflected just wide for a corner, the danger was never cleared and after a skidding shot by Townsend forced Martinez into a low stop, Benteke tucked home the rebound and was rightly deemed offside, although Jason Puncheon wasn’t and was poised to tap home himself, and soon after he headed straight at Martinez as Palace sought to move further ahead.
And they did just that on 62 minutes when they deservedly doubled their lead. Once again, Townsend and Zaha were involved as they linked up on the right, and latter sent a low cross into the path of Cabaye inside the D who first-time managed to hook the ball goalwards and watched it arc over the outstretched Martinez and into the top corner to send Selhurst into raptures.
If the home supporters thought they were in dreamland then, six minutes later they wouldn’t have wanted to have been woken up as a third arrived. It came via the penalty spot when Townsend was brought crashing down by Martinez as he attempted to round the keeper, and Milivojevic stepped up to fire the ball into the bottom corner with unerring accuracy and score his first goal in red and blue.
Arsene Wenger’s team were rattled and it was nearly 4-0 with five minutes to go when Benteke lashed a volley towards the bottom corner and Nacho Monreal managed to scramble it clear with James McArthur waiting to finish it off, but the three goals were more than enough to hand the home fans a night they will never forget.
Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Sakho, Kelly, Schlupp, Cabaye (McArthur 74), Milivojevic (Flamini 82), Zaha (Delaney 88), Puncheon, Townsend, C. Benteke. Subs not used: Speroni, Fryers, Flamini, Kaikai, Sako.
Arsenal: Martinez, Bellerin, Mustafi, Gabriel, Monreal, Xhaka, Elneny (Ramsey 59), Walcott (Oxlade-Chamberlain 68), Ozil, Sanchez, Welbeck (Giroud 59). Subs not used: Macey, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Coquelin.