When these teams met in the first month of the season, Crystal Palace slumped to a third successive defeat and there were serious concerns about where they were heading. That nadir in their fortunes seems even farther away after another comfortable victory inspired by the relentless and reliable Glenn Murray.
Murray added two more to his vast tally of goals as Palace made nonsense of the fact their lead over Middlesbrough was two points at the start of play. Although Boro reduced the arrears late on it was a token effort which the home side immediately answered at the other end to underline why Tony Mowbray's team have come off second best in every League fixture in 2013 before the narrow win over Leeds last Tuesday.
Yet Ian Holloway revealed it took a half-time rollicking to deliver a second-half performance from which he could derive satisfaction. "I wasn't happy at half-time and told them they were boring me," the Palace manager said. "We were not quick enough or sharp enough, we were too laborious. I want us to show the same energy that I have and I don't yet know the best way to get what I want from them."
With Wilfried Zaha choosing the presence of England manager Roy Hodgson to produce what Holloway called his best performance during his reign, Palace were unstoppable and hardly needed the assistance lent to them by the poverty of the visitors' defending.
Faris Haroun failed to clear cleanly in the ninth minute and invited Zaha to create havoc. Andrew Halliday tried to assist Haroun in making up for the error but two defenders proved incapable of stopping the cross which fell to Murray at the far post for an easy finish. He should have had two more before the break, failing to connect properly with two Zaha crosses.
Boro lacked energy despite the best efforts of Grant Leadbitter. Peter Ramage cleared off the line from Haroun and Josh McEachran wafted a golden opportunity over the bar. But Boro's defending was again awry for the second goal as a corner was needlessly conceded, Murray was left alone to meet the delivery and Ramage spun impressively to score for the second time in successive games.
In the 57th minute, Murray seized on a loose ball, took a couple of strides and unleashed a drive of such venom that Jason Steele was powerless to keep out. Astonishingly it took his total to 27 goals in 30 appearances.
Haroun's solitary reply was unexpected though Kevin Phillips quickly restored the three-goal margin after Zaha had set him up.
Crystal Palace (4-4-1-1): Speroni; Richards, Delaney, Ramage, Parr; Zaha, Dikgacoi (Butterfield, 76), Jedinak, J Williams (Phillips, 71); Dobbie (Bolasie, 81); Murray.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Steele; Parnaby (Dyer, 58), Bikey, Friend, Halliday; McEachran (Bailey, 59), R Williams, Leadbitter, Haroun; Jutkiewicz (Miller, 59), Carayol.
Referee Oliver Langford.Reuse content