Jason Puncheon scored twice and Joe Ledley got one against his former club to plunge Cardiff City into relegation danger as Crystal Palace secured a crucial 3-0 win.
The victory at the Cardiff City Stadium gave Tony Pulis's side a huge boost for their own Barclays Premier League status.
With only five points separating the two sides heading into the match, Pulis had insisted his side would do Cardiff no favours, despite the Welshman having watched the club during his youth. His words bore truth in a spirited first half as a fierce drive from Puncheon gave Palace the lead at the break.
The hosts pushed for a leveller in the second half, but were caught out when Marouane Chamakh, who was returning from a month-long hamstring injury, saw his header parried into the path of Ledley, who netted the follow-up on his first return to Cardiff since leaving for Celtic in 2010.
Puncheon added further gloss in the closing stages with a superb curling effort from 20 yards, as Palace moved seven points clear of the relegation zone to 14th, while Cardiff face an uphill task to avoid the drop with a six-point gap to 17th-placed Norwich.
The visitors settled the better of the two sides and Kagisho Dikgacoi firing the first sight of goal in the fourth minute high and wide. After a lacklustre opening, Cardiff began to gain a foothold in the game, with ex-Palace winger Wilfried Zaha giving his former employers a reminder of his potential with a series of promising runs that failed to yield opportunities.
Cardiff's improvement resulted in their first effort on target after 24 minutes, Fraizer Campbell ghosting between Palace's centre-backs to head Jordon Mutch's cross from deep and force a smart low save from Julian Speroni.
However, the home side's failings in defence were once more evident in the 31st minute as Puncheon opened the scoring, shortly after wasting a similar opportunity. Good work from Ledley led to Puncheon working room on the right of the penalty area before he drilled a fierce left-foot strike into the near corner.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first with Palace asking the questions, and Ledley bent a shot wide from 18 yards in the 51st minute. From the next attack Cardiff had tentative claims for a penalty waved away by Phil Dowd when Mats Daehli went to ground when challenged by Dikgacoi.
Cardiff forced a scramble when Speroni spilled Craig Noone's cross in the 65th minute, but Palace survived and duly added the second. Chamakh leapt highest to meet a free-kick that was expertly saved by David Marshall, yet the Cardiff goalkeeper could do nothing to prevent Ledley tapping home the rebound.
Puncheon found the top corner with two minutes of normal time to go, adding a dominant air to the result which could ultimately seal Palace's survival and Cardiff's fate.
Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: "We were looking forward to this game and then we end up with a disappointing result and game like this.
"It is going to be difficult to stay up but we have got to be full of fight. It has been a tough season for everyone at the club and I think it showed towards the end.
"We have got to work hard and we need to produce a miracle to stay up now."
Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis: "You get a great result against Chelsea and it's a little like after the Lord Mayor's show. We've been banging on about that all week – not taking our foot off the pedal. We've gone out there and we haven't let that happen."
"When I took over we were conceding a lot of goals. We were conceding a lot in the early stages of games. To stay in games you have to keep it tight. Clean sheets for us are very important.
"We defended fantastically. They sent a lot of balls into the box, but we dealt with everything. The two central midfielders were fantastic too, and we looked good on the break.
"But we've got a lot of work to do. Some results today have brought the pack together."
|12 Apr 2014||v Southampton (A)|
|19 Apr 2014||v Stoke (H)|
|27 Apr 2014||v Sunderland (A)|
|03 May 2014||v Newcastle (A)|
|11 May 2014||v Chelsea (H)|