Gayle stuns beleaguered Villa
Aston Villa 0 Crystal Palace 1
The season is only half-run, but this had the feel of a seismic result. Seconds after Dwight Gayle's brilliant, unexpected winner, the final whistle blew.
Aston Villa's players slumped to the turf, Palace's ran to celebrate with their fans, and those home supporters still in the ground turned on Paul Lambert.
Villa have now lost four on the spin, won twice at home all season, and are just three points clear of a relegation zone they spent most of last season scrambling to stay clear of.
While Villa peer downwards nervously, Palace are looking up. They have escaped the bottom three for the first time since the season took shape and suddenly it seems as if Tony Pulis may maintain his proud record of never being relegated.
"It is a significant result," said the Palace manager. "It also gives me a chance to talk to the chairman and try and bring in a couple of players in the January transfer window."
Pulis said Villa "will be fine, they just need a bit of luck". Lambert's view was that they need their spine back, with Ron Vlaar and Christian Benteke injured and Ashley Westwood suspended, but Benteke is 10 matches without a goal, which hardly suggests he can be relied on as a saviour.
Villa have scored six goals at home all season, the worst record in the four divisions. There is plenty of effort but a dearth of imagination.
In the final minute here, Fabian Delph was easily turned by Gayle, who then bent a shot past Brad Guzan to stun friend and foe alike. (© Independent News Service)