Brighton's first league defeat at their new home dropped them even further behind the early pace-setters in the Championship, but that was almost a secondary issue for their fans last night as they lost in the first meeting with their greatest rivals for six years.
Palace's first victory in the league since 20 August seemed a distant prospect when Brighton took an early lead, but they scored a deserved leveller through Wilfried Zaha with ten minutes left, and won it when Darren Ambrose came off the bench to snatch all three points, converting a cross from fellow substitute Jonathan Parr. Glenn Murray, who left Brighton in the summer for Palace, added a third.
Brighton remain in fifth place, but Gus Poyet's team, the division leaders a fortnight ago, have not won in three league matches.
The match marked the resumption after six years of an antagonism that began in the 1970s when Brighton and Palace, under Alan Mullery and Terry Venables respectively, fought their way up the divisions together from third to first, taking in an acrimonious FA Cup tie along the way and a match with five penalties, three of them missed by Palace.
Dougie Freedman, the Palace manager, had scored twice in the teams' previous meeting, a 3-2 home defeat for Brighton, who looked determined to avenge that loss last night, taking the lead after only six minutes. Ryan Harley and Gary Dicker were allowed to take a short corner on the left unchallenged, and Craig Mackail-Smith met Dicker's low cross to the near post to score his sixth goal of the season.
The visitors failed to mount a threat until the 25th minute when 17-year-old Jonathan Williams, the player most likely to create something for Palace, charged forward from midfield past three opponents only to pull his shot wide from 20 yards.
Williams was again in the thick of the action in the 38th minute, an error by Lewis Dunk presenting him with the chance to set up Murray, who lashed his shot across goal.
Palace continued to look the more likely to score after the interval, Mackail-Smith doing well to clear Paddy McCarthy's header off the line and the impressive Parr forcing a smart save from Casper Ankergren.
Brighton were keeping possession as much as possible but seldom looked likely to extend their lead as Palace pressed for the equaliser. It finally arrived when Zaha took advantage of Liam Bridcutt's slip to roll a low shot into the far corner.
Brighton & Hove Albion (4-1-2-3): Ankergren; Taricco, Greer, Dunk, Painter; Bridcutt; Harley, Dicker; Barnes, Mackail-Smith, Noone. Substitutes not used Brezovan (gk), Vincelot, LuaLua, Vicente, Hoskins.
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Speroni; Ramage, McCarthy, Tunchev, Moxey; Wright, Jedinak; Zaha, Williams, Scannell; Murray. Substitutes not used Price (gk), Parr, Gardner, Ambrose, Easter.
Referee A D'Urso (Essex).