Neil Warnock made a winning return to Selhurst Park but it took a controversial injury time goal to earn his Queens Park Rangers team their eighth victory in 10 Championship fixtures this season.
Rangers, the only unbeaten side in the division and enjoying their best start for 35 years, had only just conceded an equaliser when Heidar Helguson beat Julian Speroni to Tommy Smith's cross and headed into an empty net, but Palace's goalkeeper claimed that the striker had impeded him. Speroni's furious protests were rewarded only with a yellow card.
Warnock could see nothing wrong with the goal. George Burley, his successor as Palace manager, wondered whether Helguson might have handled but was more concerned with his team's naivety in pushing forward for a winner.
If it was a desperately disappointing finish for a youthful Palace side who had worked hard to find a way back, Rangers' experience always looked likely to count.
The contrast between the sides was typified by their attacks. Having taken off the ineffective Pablo Counago at half time, Palace were left with a front line comprising three youngsters, Kieran Djilali, Wilfried Zaha and Kieron Cadogan, with three goals between them. Rangers, meanwhile, fielded an impressive front three of Adel Taarabt, Helguson and Jamie Mackie.
The first half was a story of missed half-chances. Rangers saw Kaspars Gorkss head against the bar and Speroni keep out Taarabt's strike and Mackie's follow-up, while for Palace Andrew Dorman struck a post, Zaha forced a smart double save from Paddy Kenny and Hogan Ephraim cleared off the line from Julian Bennett.
The match turned on a dreadful mistake early in the second half by home debutant Edgar Davids. Mackie intercepted Davids' back pass and rounded Speroni before unselfishly setting up Taarabt from close range. Davids, who had been carrying an injury, was soon substituted.
Palace responded with admirable energy and Zaha produced a moment of magic in the penalty area to set up Cadogan's 89th minute equaliser, only for Helguson to deliver his killer blow.Reuse content