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Palace 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion: Murray at the double to sink former club

CRYSTAL Palace returned to the top of the Championship this afternoon after a well-deserved 3-0 win over arch-rivals Brighton & Hove Albion.

The Eagles were aided after just eight minutes when Seagulls defender Lewis Dunk received a straight red card for bringing down Yannick Bolasie on the edge of the box.

But it was former Brighton striker Glenn Murray who turned out to be the visitors' tormentor with his 16th and 17th goals of the season.

And Owen Garvan capped off a great afternoon's work with the third from the penalty spot after Murray had been fouled by Gordon Greer.

The match started brightly but without any clear-cut chances, but it soon livened up courtesy of Dunk's sloppy ball control.

Right-back Bruno Saltor played a ball across to the centre-back outside the box, but his first touch was poor, which allowed Bolasie to nip in on goal, but the young stopper cut him down to size and was given his marching orders.

And from the resulting free-kick on the edge of the box, Garvan curled an effort over the wall but it struck the crossbar.

Bolasie then warmed the gloves of Tomas Kuszczak with a thunderous shot on the right side of the box soon after, while Garvan went close again with a first time shot which went just wide.

Bolasie took aim again on 26 minutes when his long range effort took a huge deflection and looked to send Kuszczak the wrong way, but the ball just whistled past the post for a corner.

Palace were fairly comfortable at the back with Craig Mackail-Smith on his own up front, while Kagisho Dikgacoi went close with a first time shot from Jonathan Parr's low cross just before the half-hour mark.

However, the deadlock was finally broken six minutes before the break. And you just knew who was going to produce the goods.

A corner was whipped in with pace from Bolasie and who else but Glenn Murray to rise above everyone else and glance a powerful header home to the delight of the Eagles fans.

Just 60 seconds into the second-half, Brighton went extremely close to equalising when Ashley Barnes' through-ball beat the offside trap and found Mackail-Smith, who burst clear on goal but his shot struck the outside of Speroni's near post from close range.

It was a huge let-off for Palace as the visitors looked to start well, but their rhythm was interrupted on 53 minutes when Palace grabbed their second of the afternoon.

An attempted pass through the Brighton rearguard took a big deflection into Murray's path and as the striker went around Kuszczak, he was brought down by the former Manchester United custodian, leaving the referee no option but to award a penalty.

And the former Seagulls favourite stepped up to notch his 17th goal of the season with ease.

However, Murray opted against grabbing a hat-trick after 71 minutes when he was nudged in the face by Gordon Greer as he leapt for the ball, leaving the referee no option but to award another spot-kick.

This time, Garvan stepped up and found the bottom corner despite Kuszcazk going the right way - Palace were cruising and there was no way back for their biggest rivals.

Murray was then replaced by Aaron Wilbraham, who immediately put himself about up front, but it was Delaney who had the next chance when he scooped the ball over inside the box following Bolasie's cut-back down the left.

Dean Moxey then came on for the hard-working Jedinak with five minutes as Palace looked to keep hold of the ball and also another clean sheet.

With three minutes added on at the end, Palace did just that and claimed a worthy three points before walking off to a huge ovation from the home faithful.

Next Saturday, much of the focus will be on manager Ian Holloway as Blackpool visit Selhurst Park.

Palace: Speroni, Ward (Moritz 54), Parr, Ramage, Delaney, Dikgacoi, Jedinak (c) (Moxey 85), Garvan, Bolasie, Zaha, Murray (Wilbraham 73).

Subs Not Used: Price, Gabbidon, O'Keefe, Easter.

Attendance: 20,114 (2,900 away fans)

By Croydon Advertiser Sports Reporter Mark Ritson

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