Crystal Palace are blessed with a pair of wing wizards who can do wonders with the ball but in between them lurks a seasoned predator ready to finish off all their clever work. If the South London club are heading for the Premier League, it will be more to do with Glenn Murray's goals than the sorcery of Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie.
It was only two seasons ago that Murray fired Brighton to promotion and, having shot down his former team yesterday, he is in the box seat to repeat the trick with their fierce rivals from the north end of the A23. Two more goals took him to 17 for the season and, remarkably, nine in the four home games since Ian Holloway was appointed manager.
"I've worked with some great players in my time and I have to say Glenn is right up there with them," said Holloway as his team climbed to the Championship summit. "We have wide players who can hurt you but teams must not ignore the man in the middle because he can hurt you as well."
Brighton were in disarray from the eighth minute when a massive error at the heart of the defence left them facing the division's most vibrant attack light-handed. Lewis Dunk miscontrolled a square pass and, in attempting to recover his embarrassment, stuck out a leg as Bolasie sped away.
The red card was inevitable and Gus Poyet's team were only spared additional punishment by the width of the crossbar as Owen Garvan's free-kick grazed the woodwork.
That Palace had to wait some time for the breakthrough was no fault of Bolasie, who clearly has no wish to play second fiddle to the dynamic Zaha. It was from his corner just before the break that Palace began to underline their superior status, Murray escaping his markers to head home inside the six-yard box.
A let-off when Craig Mackail-Smith struck the outside of the post at the start of the second half demanded that Palace quickly put the issue to bed and the chance came when Murray fell under Tomasz Kuszczak's challenge and then comfortably put away the resulting penalty.
Murray later won a second spotkick after defender Gordon Greer's challenge for a high ball prompted another blast of Mick Russell's whistle but he opted to stand aside, allowing Garvan the honour of wrapping up the victory.
It was only adding insult to injury for the men from the south coast when Holloway revealed afterwards that Murray's place in the team had been in serious doubt before the start of the match because of illness.
Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Speroni; Ward (Moritz, 54), Ramage, Delaney, Parr; Zaha, Dikgacoi, Jedinak (Moxey, 85), Garvan, Bolasie; Murray (Wilbraham, 74).
Brighton (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Bruno, Greer, Dunk, Calderon; Barnes, Bridcutt, Hammond, Orlandi (Croft, 45); Mackail-Smith, Buckley (Dicker, 77).
Referee Mick Russell.Reuse content