Johnson gives Palace the edge
By Paul Higham
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Andrew Jonhson's late winner gave Crystal Palace a 3-2 lead after the first leg of the Division One play-off with Sunderland at Selhurst Park.
All the action came in the second half, and a dramatic game saw Sunderland take the lead from the penalty spot through Marcus Stewart, but for Palace to level a minute later through skipper Neil Shipperley's excellent header.
Iain Dowie's men moved in front when Danny Butterfield's shot was deflected to give Mart Poom no chance.
Kevin Kyle capitalised on some slack defending to make it 2-2 with just six minutes left to play but there was still time for a winner when top-scorer Johnson smuggled a shot past Poom two minutes later.
The game started brightly as Shipperley went close after eight minutes when he glanced his header just wide as Mart Poom was left flapping.
Palace shaded the first half although there were few clear cut chances to speak of despite the feverish pace of both sets of players.
Wayne Routledge looked busy for the hosts and he burst down the middle towards goal four minutes before the break, but his lay-off to Julian Gray was not the best and he spooned his shot over.
Routledge wasted a good chance at the start of the second half, while Jeff Whitley curled a shot just over the bar from 25 yards.
The game burst into life five minutes after the interval, when Carl Robinson burst into the Palace box and was brought down by Tony Popovic, with referee Richard Beeby not hesitating in pointing to the spot.
Marcus Stewart stepped up and was coolness personified as he sent Nico Vaesen the wrong way to slot home from 12 yards.
With the visiting fans still celebrating going ahead, Palace drew level just a minute later when Shipperley stooped to produce a fine looping header from Danny Granville's cross that floated into the far corner.
Dowie's side took the lead on 63 minutes when Butterfield's strike from distance took a wicked deflection off Phil Babb and gave Poom no chance.
The Black Cats came storming back, however, with John Oster hitting the post with a measured curler from Stewart's lay-off.
Mick McCarthy's men were searching for an equaliser, and Robinson went close twice as they turned the screw.
With six minutes left to play Sunderland finally made it 2-2 when Palace failed to clear a free kick and the ball dropped to Kyle who smashed home through the crowd.
Once more Palace struck back almost immediately and, with Sunderland looking like they had secured a draw, Johnson popped up with the winner on the night four minutes from time.
The Eagles' prolific marksman powered forward in a typically surging run, and cut inside from the left just on the edge of the box before firing goalwards.
His low shot was not the best and Poom should have done better as he allowed the ball to get past him and find the far corner to hand Palace a 3-2 victory.
Judging on the first leg, the return fixture should be an absolute cracker at The Stadium of Light on Monday.
Crystal Palace v Sunderland