Crystal Palace end long wait for league win in 2016 to leave Norwich in danger
Relief greeted Crystal Palace's first Premier League win of 2016 as Jason Puncheon's fine strike earned a 1-0 win over Norwich.
Palace had lost nine of their last 14 games - and six straight at home - but Puncheon's curling effort surely means the Eagles, 16th on 37 points, are clear of relegation danger.
It is 20 years in May since Norwich last won at Palace - six draws in 14 matches - and their failure to get a point meant Aston Villa survived for another day.
The loss also means Alex Neil's 17th-placed side can still join Villa in being demoted, piling more importance on next Saturday's clash with Sunderland.
The Black Cats are four points behind Norwich, but have two games in hand, the first against leaders Leicester on Sunday.
Alan Pardew's men, meanwhile, can face Everton on Wednesday with their top-flight status all-but mathematically certain after their first win in almost four months.
Norwich, who had beaten West Brom and Newcastle in successive games, may feel aggrieved after a first-half challenge from Damien Delaney on Matt Jarvis.
They appealed in vain for a penalty, but the fact referee Michael Oliver's decision was a key talking point only showed the poor quality of the contest, even if it was settled by a fine goal.
Norwich lost Timm Klose, one of the goalscorers in the win over Newcastle, to an apparent ankle injury after 40 minutes.
The Swiss defender had earlier tried to play on Palace's nerves and unsettled Wayne Hennessey by his mere presence.
Hennessey failed to claim Gary O'Neil's free-kick, but Palace scrambled clear.
Palace last won in the league at Selhurst Park on December 12 against Southampton. Rather than pounce upon the anxiety, it infected the Canaries.
One of the few Norwich players who showed confidence was Martin Olsson, who scored the stoppage time winner against the Magpies.
The Sweden left-back twice coasted by Yannick Bolasie, inducing a booking on one occasion, before the Palace winger attacked Olsson.
John Ruddy then struggled to get beyond to reach a corner and Yohan Cabaye's subtle effort deflected wide.
Scott Dann met Bakary Sako's corner with a back-post header which Ruddy held before the penalty appeal.
Klose departed on a stretcher after tripping Dwight Gayle as Palace launched a counter.
Dann prodded over at the back post following a corner and Bolasie blasted over a Puncheon cross as Palace pressed again early in the second half.
Patrick Bamford was booed when he replaced Naismith, having cut short his loan at Palace, and within moments of the Chelsea striker's arrival, the hosts led.
Puncheon cut in from the right, exchanged passes with Joel Ward and then struck a beautiful curling shot. He appeared tearful in celebrating his first goal of the season.
Ryan Bennett forced Hennessey to save soon afterwards before Ruddy twice denied Wilfried Zaha, who had injected pace into the Palace attack and fear in the Norwich defence.
Jonny Howson cleared off the line from Bolasie before Ruddy went up for a corner and a free-kick in stoppage time, but Norwich could not find an equaliser.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"That's the feeling after the game we've all been missing #cpfc" - Palace midfielder James McArthur sums up the relief for the Eagles as Crystal Palace earned their first Premier League win in the year of 2016.
Wayne Hennessey: 6 (out of 10)
Joel Ward: 6
Scott Dann: 6
Damien Delaney: 7
Pape Souare: 5
Jason Puncheon: 7
Yohan Cabaye: 6
Mile Jedinak: 7
Dwight Gayle: 5
Bakary Sako: 5
Yannick Bolasie: 7
Wilfried Zaha (for Sako, 65 minutes): 7
Joe Ledley (for Puncheon, 76): 5
Connor Wickham (for Gayle, 79): 5
John Ruddy: 6
Andre Wisdom: 5
Martin Olsson: 5
Timm Klose: 6
Ryan Bennett: 6
Jonny Howson: 7
Gary O'Neil: 7
Robbie Brady: 6
Dieumerci Mbokani: 5
Steven Naismith: 5
Matt Jarvis: 5
Sebastien Bassong (for Klose, 40): 6
Patrick Bamford (for Naismith, 66): 5
Nathan Redmond (for Jarvis, 76): 5
Jason Puncheon. Settled the match with the one moment of quality.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Puncheon's strike was decisive in the game and in securing Palace's top-flight status. He exchanged passes with Ward and struck a fine curling effort across goal before appearing tearful while celebrating.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Two changes saw Yohan Cabaye and Dwight Gayle come in but one of those dropped, Wilfried Zaha, made key interventions. The former Manchester United winger injected pace and purpose into Palace's play, while leaving Norwich fearful. The Canaries were unchanged, but Patrick Bamford's main contribution off the substitutes' bench was being booed by the fans of the team he started the season with.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
The sheer lack of quality bar Puncheon's strike. The goalkeepers were barely tested, except when illegally interfered with at set-pieces.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Crystal Palace v Everton, Barclays Premier League (Wednesday, April 13)
Norwich v Sunderland, Barclays Premier League (Saturday, April 16)