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40 years on: The story of Selhurst's record attendance

11 May 2019

Exactly 40 years ago today, 51,482 spectators crammed into Selhurst Park for a clash between Divison Two Crystal Palace and Burnley. Far from the 25,486 capacity held today, we take a look back to that iconic moment four decades on.

A successful 1978-79 season under Terry Venables found the club in with a chance of gaining promotion from Division Two to English football's top flight. 
 
With the campaign coming to an end, a couple of draws slowed the Eagles' progress in the league, but Palace held a vital game in hand over their rivals.
 
After David Swindlehurst netted the only goal of the game at Leyton Orient on Saturday 5th May – the day that other clubs completed their 42-game programme – the prognosis for the Eagles was clear for the final fixture: lose and another season in Division Two beckoned, draw and promotion would be attained, while victory would secure the championship itself from under the noses of league leaders Brighton.
 
Burnley were the opponents for that final game, travelling down to face the Eagles at a packed Selhurst Park.
 
Fans gathered early inside Selhurst on the Friday evening and ultimately the gates had to be closed long before kick-off. The given attendance of 51,801 was later amended to 51,482, but those present knew it was much greater than this. Fans even took up a vantage point from nearby trees in view of the pitch.
 
Burnley provided stubborn resistance and rode their luck for over an hour, producing the occasional scare for Palace as well, but 14 minutes from time a cross from Vince Hilaire was met by the head of Ian Walsh and the ball flashed into the net. A pitch invasion followed amid the jubilant scenes, but order was soon restored, allowing David Swindlehurst to clinch the title with a right-footed drive in the 88th minute.
 
Rumour has it that the Brighton squad found out about Palace clinching the title from them as their Eagles-supporting pilot informed them halfway through a flight to America.
 
At the final whistle the throng invaded the playing surface again as Jim Cannon led his jubilant teammates into the director’s box in scenes resembling those of 10 years before, when victory over Fulham had taken Palace to Division One for the first time.
 
With thanks to Ian King for providing information for this article.
 
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