Two goals in the final seven minutes unpicked all Peterborough's recent improvement and sent them tumbling into League One. The irony is that as things turned out Crystal Palace could have lost and it would have left their passage into the play-offs unchanged, but a first victory in 10 games at least ensures they go into the final showdown for promotion on a winning note.
Poor Posh. Throughout a fluctuating afternoon they looked to be the ones with their heads above the waterline as Huddersfield and Barnsley took turns to occupy the last promotion place. But it all came undone for the visitors at the death as Mile Jedinak scored a winner in the dying minutes.
"I'm devastated for the chairman and the players," their crestfallen manager Darren Ferguson said. "I have never worked for a better group of players – they have been brilliant and I don't think I could have done any more with them."
Six defeats in their last 25 games is normally promotion form. Such was Peterborough's dreadful start – losing their first seven league fixtures – that not even that more than respectable last half to the campaign could save them.
Palace supporters will consider that after a pallid couple of months they are back in form at just the right time. It might be significant that Glenn Murray reacquainted himself with the goalscoring art again after firing blanks for eight games but they will have to improve significantly to get the better of Brighton, who beat them 3-0 as recently as 17 March.
Denied by a brilliant double-save by Bobby Olejnik early on, the home team fell behind when Lee Tomlin climaxed a brilliant jinking run with a fine right-footed drive. The equaliser came in first-half added time when Gabriel Zakuani upended Danny Gabbidon and Murray smashed home the penalty for his 31st of the season. A draw would have been sufficient for Peterborough as long as Barnsley didn't win but the visitors' desire for second-half goals was the more acute and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing answered their prayers by drilling his shot beyond Julian Speroni.
Posh's safety margin was now considerable but there was a savage sting to their season's tail sparked by the arrival from the bench of Kevin Phillips. With seven minutes left, a swift turn followed by a toe-poke and Palace were level, the comeback made complete by Jedinak's decisive header from a free-kick.
"I'm delighted for the fans but I'm not celebrating because I've got a huge job now to get this team right for the play-offs," Palace's manager Ian Holloway said. "The last six weeks have been a living, breathing nightmare but we've come through it and will be stronger for it."
Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Speroni; Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey; Bolasie (Williams 67),Dikgacoi (Dobbie 75), Jedinak, Garvan (Phillips 67), Zaha; Murray.
Peterborough United (4-2-3-1): Olejnik; Alcock, Zakuani, Bostwick, Rowe; Payne (Barnett 90), McCann; Mendez-Laing, Tomlin, Pritchard (Knight-Percival 88); Gayle.
Referee Craig Pawson.
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