Jason Puncheon scored a terrific winner as Crystal Palace beat Norwich 1-0 to grab their first Premier League of 2016.
In a typically tight and tense affair at Selhurst Park, Puncheon provided a moment of true class midway through the second half to take all three points and, in all likelihood, preserve Palace’s top flight status for next season.
Norwich on the other hand are looking nervously over their shoulders and will already be turning their minds towards next weekend’s relegation six-pointer with Sunderland at Carrow Road.
Both sides had half chances in the opening 20 minutes in what was a fairly dour affair.
Puncheon conceded a free kick to Norwich on 18 minutes and from Gary O’Neil’s cross, Wayne Hennessy was anything but convincing as he spilled the ball and Palace were forced to hack clear.
At the other end, some neat play from Yannick Bolasie almost found Dwight Gayle in the box and, after Papiss Souare had crossed back in, Puncheon saw his shot deflected away from the target.
The Canaries were calling for a penalty on the stroke of half time as Matt Jarvis went down following a Damien Delaney challenge but referee Michael Oliver was unmoved.
Bolasie and Puncheon continued to look most likely to make something happen for Palace in the second half and on 68 minutes it was the former that shot over the crossbar after a decent cross from Puncheon.
The winger made the telling contribution shortly afterwards.
Puncheon took a pass from Joel Ward into his stride and with one touch to control, curled a superb shot past John Ruddy from the edge of the Norwich box.
That was all it took for Palace to get the vital three points. Palace manager Alan Pardew will be a relieved man this evening but for counterpart Alex Neil, this season remains very much in the balance.