Crystal Palace 0 Burnley 2
Burnley finally ended their away-day hoodoo with a capital performance and a magnificent victory which puts Premier League safety within touching distance.
The Clarets produced their best away display of the season and this time were rewarded with the three points which lifted them to 14th-place in the table – eight points clear of the relegation places.
Ashley Barnes followed up his match-winning goal against Crystal Palace in November with another to take his total for the season to half-a-dozen as the highlight of a first half bossed by the Clarets.
And then following a superb rearguard action after the break, substitute Andre Gray broke clear to bury the late second which gave Burnley their first ever Premier League win in London at the 16th attempt.
It also ended Palace’s 10-game unbeaten run against the Clarets at Selhurst Park on a memorable evening which brought the best out of Sean Dyche’s side.
Dyche is also due his share of the credit after making four changes to his starting line-up, which paid off to a tee.
The absence of Joey Barton and the injured Ben Mee forced two of them, with James Tarkowski stepping in to play a big part in helping keep a 10th clean sheet of the season.
And in front of him, Ashley Westwood and Scott Arfield added some fresh energy to a midfield which supported the twin strikeforce of Barnes and the outstanding Sam Vokes – who were too hot for Palace to handle.
Palace had won six of their eight previous league games, prior to a mid-week loss to high-flying Tottenham, to also put themselves within touching distance of safety and predictably started with all guns blazing.
The Clarets had to see off a hat-trick of early corners and Tom Heaton made a flying save to keep out a well-struck drive from top scorer Christian Benteke.
But Burnley passed that test and with seven minutes gone took the lead with Barnes’ first goal since his effort at Liverpool last month – the Clarets’ last goal away from home in open play.
Vokes had just seen a volley blocked but then played a big part in keeping the Clarets’ momentum alive as he laid down a marker for things to come.
Westwood also played his part in ferrying the ball wide to Stephen Ward, whose excellent low cross picked out Barnes.
The striker didn’t make clean contact with his first touch, but reacted quickest to drill the rebound through the legs of goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
The Clarets’ joyous scenes were marred by a minor blow to the head for Tarkowski – who was hit by a lighter seemingly thrown from the crowd – on his first Premier League start alongside Michael Keane.
And further celebrations were cut short with a quarter-of-an hour gone when Barnes thought he had doubled the lead, only to be belatedly penalised for controlling the ball with his arm before squeezing it past Hennessey at his near post.
The Clarets’ increased confidence was apparent, though, as they continued to take the game to Palace with an authority they haven’t been able to replicate in too many away games.
Vokes was a focal point with his prowess in the air troubling a re-shuffled Palace back four and it took a scrambling save from Wales international team-mate Hennessey to deny the striker a headed goal from another Ward cross.
Vokes had also flashed another header wide, this time from a Matthew Lowton delivery, while the nearest Palace came to leveling before half-time saw Luka Milivojevic shoot wide when he should have located the target following another corner.
The Clarets had been forced to replace the injured Ward with Jon Flanagan in first-half stoppage time and the on-loan Liverpool man immediately made his presence felt following the re-start with a couple of challenges on Wilfried Zaha which brought no censure from referee Bobby Madley but wound the winger up enough to earn him a booking for dissent.
And Burnley needed to show that kind of fight to keep Palace at arm’s length and the lid on a vociferous home crowd.
The Eagles were certainly seeing more of the ball, but a Clarets’ defence now showing two changes to the back line that has served them so well this season stood firm in the face of growing pressure and a troublesome dipping sun.
Heaton had not been called into action since the opening minutes but when needed he again produced the goods, spectacularly tipping away a volley from Damian Delaney with a superb full-length save with 65 minutes gone.
Five minutes later Palace boss Sam Allardyce sent for fresh legs in the shape of Loic Remy and Fraizer Campbell to try and find a way through Burnley’s unbreakable back line.
Dyche followed suit shortly afterwards with Andre Gray replacing Barnes for the final 10 minutes.
And it proved an inspired move as Gray burst clear to ram home the second goal with five minutes to go and seal a famous victory.
Boy-hood Palace fan George Boyd created the chance when he intercepted a clearance and released Gray with a perfect pass from the outside of his left boot.
The substitute still had a bit to do but did it superbly.
Racing clear, Gray kept his head to bury a low shot inside Hennessey’s near post to claim his 10th goal of the season and lift the Clarets above Palace in the table.
More importantly, the gap over the bottom three places was extended again as the jubilant Clarets’ fans chanted ‘we are staying up.’ They may well be right.
Burnley: Heaton, Lowton, Keane, Tarkowski, Ward (Flanagan 45), Boyd, Westwood, Hendrick, Arfield, Barnes (Gray 79), Vokes. Substitutes: Pope, Brady, Defour, Gudmundsson, Long.
Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Van Aanholt, Kelly, Delaney, Milivojevic, Puncheon, McArthur (Campbell 71), Townsend, Zaha, Benteke (Remy 71). Substitutes: Speroni, Flamini, Chung-Yong, Sako, Schlupp.
Referee: Bobby Madley