This narrow, and shakily achieved, victory saw Forest make a significant climb away from the relegation area. Up to 16th place, and with three excellent goals to be set against a scarcely credible display of nerves in the home goal by Barry Roche, stand-in for the injured Darren Ward.
Roche, playing his fourth match since Ward was sidelined with a back problem, committed some outrageous mishandling howlers and eventually stopped coming off his line altogether for centres.
This undermined the confidence of Forest's defence, but the irony is that a world-class save in each half by Roche was, in the end, the difference between his side and an eager, impressive Palace, who had won five of their previous six away from home.
Forest were two up almost before the words of Palace's pre-match team huddle had sunk in. All through, Andy Reid's magic threatened to unhinge Palace and in the first minute, following a slip by Tony Popovic, Reid raced away, needing to shift the ball to his trusty left foot before bringing Cedric Berthelin to a plunging stop.
In their next attack, Reid popped up in his more normal place on the left, floating over a cross from a seemingly boxed-in position near the corner flag. The ball was cleared only as far as Gareth Williams and though his shot was blocked, it rebounded in the friendliest fashion for him to side-foot home.
Before Forest scored again, Roche perpetrated his first howler, missing a cross from the right. Matthieu Louis-Jean, leaping with him, appeared to handle. "I can't believe the referee didn't give a penalty," said Palace manager Iain Dowie.
Roche's next involvement was to find Gareth Taylor's head from a goalkick. The flick-on was collected by Nick Barmby, an unlikely striker considering his lack of stature, but the precise short cross picked out Reid, who scored at leisure. Twice more, Roche's butterfingers placed Forest in peril, Michael Dawson having to kick off the line from Julian Gray. But towards the interval the keeper soared to turn away Danny Butterfield's searing 30-yarder.
Palace stepped up the pace and pressure in the second half and got one back just short of the hour. Neil Shipperley had a simple tap-in as a result of Danny Granville's fine run and searching cross into the goalmouth.
However, there was always the genius of Reid to provide relief for Forest and he laid on a second goal for Williams with a glorious first-time flick. Forest's exultation lasted for only a minute or so before the impressive Wayne Routledge crossed for Granville to head just inside an upright.
As Forest clung on, Roche produced his second marvellous stop to deny Routledge, who then hit the bar with a volley two minutes from the end. The biggest cheer of the afternoon greeted the return, as a late substitute, of last season's top scorer, David Johnson, out since September with a broken leg. Things are starting to happen for Forest at last.
Nottingham Forest 3
Williams 4, 74, Reid 13
Crystal Palace 2
Shipperley 58, Granville 76
Half-time: 2-0 Attendance: 28,306
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