HERMAN HREIDARSSON, who is in the process of going from one extreme to another, belatedly spared some but not quite all of Crystal Palace's blushes at Selhurst Park last night.
Ten days before he expects to pit his wits against France's World champions in a European Championship qualifier in Reykjavik, Hreidarsson was, like the rest of his Palace colleagues, in grave danger of going out of the Worthington Cup to opponents two divisions lower than Terry Venables' side. But, in the 99th minute, the Icelander stuck out a long leg after the gallant Kenny Veysey had made his one mistake in Torquay's goal, flapping at Attilio Lombardo's corner.
Lombardo's 18th-minute goal, his second of the tie, driven home from a square pass by the excellent Sasa Curcic, enabled Palace to shed the nerves which had affected their early play.
Soon after half-time Bruce Dyer advanced on goal to bring a courageous save from Veysey. Then the same player was foiled by Alex Watson's splendid tackle, and Palace looked to be in control.
The prospect of an embarrassing exit loomed large, though, when Wayne Thomas headed Torquay's 69th-minute equaliser from Chris Leadbitter's corner. Dyer took it upon himself to try and prevent extra time, and almost succeeded when he set up Matt Jansen for a shot against a post.
Torquay, were anything but finished. Knowing that another goal would send them through on the away goals rule, Leadbitter, who had had Fraser Digby sprawling to save on the stroke of full-time, later thundered a free-kick just wide.
Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Digby; Smith, Linighan, Hreidarsson, Austin; Lombardo, Mullins, Curcic (Morrison, 69), Rodger, (Bent, h-t); Dyer, Jansen (Amsalem, 90). Substitutes not used: Ormshaw (gk), Burton.
Torquay United (4-4-2): Veysey; Thomas, Watson, Robinson, Herrera (Tully, 91); Gurney, Leadbitter, McGorry, (Hapgood, h-t), Hill ( McFarlane 100); Bedeau, Partridge. Substitutes not used: Gregg (gk), Newell.
Referee: A R Hall (Birmingham).