Many anticipated the Premier League clash between Aston Villa and Crystal Palace at Villa Park would be a relatively drab affair, and managers Paul Lambert and Tony Pulis did little to challenge expectations.
The visitors sat back to wait for opportunities on the break, whilst the Villians failed to capitalise on a wealth of possession – 80% after the first twenty minutes, and 65% at the final whistle.
The game struggled to inspire and was mainly lost to long-ball football, which proved incredibly unproductive for both sides with Palace’s Marouane Chamakh and Villa’s Christian Benteke both absent through injury.
The only significant chance of the first half went to Libor Kozak, who had an injury time header from a corner blocked by Adrian Mariappa.
After the break however both sides upped the ante, with Yanik Bolasie and Jason Puncheon causing headaches for the Villa defence. Brad Guzan managed to beat away a Puncheon toe-poke in the 48th minute.
A quick end-to-end flurry in the 54th minute saw a decent effort from Andreas Weimann held by Julian Speroni after an excellent ball from Fabian Delph, followed by the visitors countering down the other end and former Villain Barry Bannan hitting the woodwork.
The intensity grew as the final whistle drew closer. Bolasie and Puncheon both remained considerable threats, whilst Dwight Gayle came off the bench for Cameron Jerome. Jordan Bowrey then entered the fray for the Birmingham outfit, and forced Julian Speroni into an acrobatic save from a header in the 89th minute.
It was the Palace sub who proved to be the deciding factor however, netting an unbelievable stoppage time curler that saw the visitors go back to South-East London with all three points. It puts Crystal Palace out of the relegation zone and Aston Villa just three points above it.
A vital win for Tony Pulis, but Paul Lambert will be concerned with the groans of discontent at Villa Park after the final whistle.