Nemanja Matic scored a stunning stoppage-time winner as Manchester United came from 2-0 down to go second in the Premier League table and leave Crystal Palace in the relegation zone.
“I always believe we can win. I will be like that until my last day,” said United boss Jose Mourinho.
“You always need that little bit of luck to win a match in the last few minutes. Sometimes the winner is the one who deserves the congratulations but I think Roy Hodgson did everything right.”
Hodgson’s side would have climbed all the way up to 13th place with a win.
But, after Chris Smalling’s header started a comeback from an improving United, Romelu Lukaku swept in his 99th Premier League goal to pile the pressure on the tiring hosts.
And, with 91 minutes on the clock, Matic smashed in a dipping shot from 25 yards to consign Palace to another week in the drop zone and move United above Liverpool.
The two giants meet at Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime and Mourinho will know that, despite this win, his team must play far better than they did for most of an underwhelming display at Selhurst Park if they are to beat Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Palace, who will feel deflated to remain 18th after leading through goals from Andros Townsend and Patrick van Aanholt, must take heart for the dogfight ahead from their committed and organised display with 10 first-team players out.
But, when seconds away from a point, Matic smashed home to inflict a second costly late home defeat in the space of eight days.
Who’s going down? Pick your bottom three
‘A Groundhog Day moment’
Last weekend it was Harry Kane and Tottenham who left Palace sickened with a late winner, and a run of six games without a win has hurt their chances of Premier League survival.
“It’s been a Groundhog Day moment,” said Hodgson. “We once again go away with no points and like the game against Tottenham – I thought we deserved something.
“I was expecting to come away with one point but once again it is nothing and I feel devastated for the players.
“We took the game to Manchester United. If we had drawn the game, I don’t think anyone – Jose included – would have said it was a scandal.”
A comeback of old?
For much of the first hour, United were well off the pace. They had not won any of 28 previous Premier League games in which they had been losing at half-time, and a Fergie-style fightback did not look on the cards in south London.
Palace were quicker, hungrier, faster to the ball, and it was no surprise when Townsend put them ahead, even if his strike was helped in by a large deflection off Victor Lindelof.
Paul Pogba summed up his side in the first half, losing the ball on multiple occasions, as the visitors struggled to create anything of note.
The second Palace goal epitomised the match up at that point, with Jeffrey Schlupp taking a quick free-kick, United’s defence failing to react at all and Van Aanholt running in clear on goal before beating David de Gea and sparking hopes of a maiden Premier League win over United.
But, from the moment Smalling headed in Antonio Valencia’s cross, the momentum switched as Hodgson failed to make changes and left two strikers on.
Alexis Sanchez saw his shot deflect on to the crossbar and, though the chance appeared to have gone, Lukaku snaked a shot through five Palace players to find the back of the net.
De Gea then made a brilliant save to deny Christian Benteke before Matic won it.
18th, to 13th, to 18th again – How a thriller unfolded
- 11 mins – Andros Townsend’s shot deflects in off Victor Lindelof to put Palace ahead. They climb out of the relegation zone and all the way up to 13th place
- 48 mins – Patrick van Aanholt sprints away from a sleepy defence to beat David de Gea and spark hopes of a first Premier League win against United
- 55 mins – Chris Smalling heads in Antonio Valencia’s cross. Comeback on?
- 74 mins – Nemanja Matic shot cleared off the line by Christian Benteke
- 76 mins – Romelu Lukaku equalises with a low finish after Alexis Sanchez’s shot had deflected up on to the crossbar. Palace are back down to 18th
- 77 mins – David de Gea makes a superb save to keep out a Christian Benteke header
- 83 mins – James McArthur has a great chance but hesitates and can’t get a shot away
- 89 mins – Wayne Hennessey saves well from Juan Mata
- 90+1 mins – Nemanja Matic stuns Selhurst Park and sends United second with a cracking strike
No Zaha, no party
Hodgson is fighting the drop with one arm behind his back, with so many players out, but one missing name stands out for them above all else.
Palace have now lost all nine Premier League games they have played this season without Wilfried Zaha in the side.
Front two Benteke and Alexander Sorloth worked hard all evening, but once United got back into the game, the Eagles were desperately lacking Zaha’s pace and drive on the break.
Hodgson’s side missed their chance to climb five places, and the manager’s words after their win over Burnley in January suddenly came back in to focus.
Palace went 12th that day, yet Hodgson wisely said: “We will be delighted if at the end of the season, we are a point above the relegation zone.”
Two months and six winless games on, that target must remain their focus.
Palace fans will take heart from not only their performance, but the fact that Hodgson has guided Fulham and West Brom to Premier League safety in the past decade from precarious positions.
In 2008, Fulham were six points from safety with 10 games to go but Hodgson steered them to five wins – including victories in each of the last three matches – to stay up on goal difference and send Reading down.
And in 2011, Albion were only a point above the bottom three at the same stage but again, five wins in the last 10 saw them safe.
Palace face West Brom at Selhurst Park on the final day of the season. That could be massive.
Man of the match – Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace)
20 games without a win – the key stats
- Manchester United came from 2-0 down to win a Premier League game for the first time since December 2013 (away to Hull).
- This was also Crystal Palace’s first Premier League defeat in a game in which they led by two or more goals.
- Crystal Palace are now winless in 20 league games against Manchester United, extending their longest winless run against a single opponent.
- Indeed, United are unbeaten in all 18 Premier League meetings between the sides, the most a side has faced another without defeat in the competition.
- Eight of Andros Townsend’s 14 Premier League goals have been from outside the box.
- Nemanja Matic’s strike was Man Utd’s first 90th-minute winner in the Premier League since Marcus Rashford’s against Hull in August 2016.
It does not get easier for Crystal Palace, who travel to Chelsea on Saturday (17:30 GMT), while United host in-form Liverpool at Old Trafford (12:30).
Match ends, Crystal Palace 2, Manchester United 3.
Second Half ends, Crystal Palace 2, Manchester United 3.
Nemanja Matic (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by James McArthur (Crystal Palace).
Nemanja Matic (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for excessive celebration.
Goal! Crystal Palace 2, Manchester United 3. Nemanja Matic (Manchester United) left footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner.
Attempt blocked. Paul Pogba (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Juan Mata.
Attempt saved. Juan Mata (Manchester United) left footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Marcus Rashford with a through ball.
Attempt blocked. Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Alexander Sørloth.
Foul by Victor Lindelöf (Manchester United).
Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Juan Mata (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Martin Kelly (Crystal Palace).
Substitution, Crystal Palace. Jairo Riedewald replaces Jeffrey Schlupp.
Attempt missed. Alexander Sørloth (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Martin Kelly.
Attempt saved. Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Andros Townsend with a cross.
Goal! Crystal Palace 2, Manchester United 2. Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner.
Attempt blocked. Alexis Sánchez (Manchester United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Juan Mata.
Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace) is shown the yellow card.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Andros Townsend.
Attempt blocked. Nemanja Matic (Manchester United) left footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is blocked.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Christian Benteke.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by James Tomkins.
Attempt missed. Jesse Lingard (Manchester United) header from very close range misses to the left. Assisted by Romelu Lukaku with a cross.
Attempt missed. Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Aaron Wan-Bissaka with a cross.
Attempt missed. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) right footed shot from long range on the left is close, but misses to the left from a direct free kick.
Paul Pogba (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace).
Chris Smalling (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Alexander Sørloth (Crystal Palace).
Substitution, Manchester United. Luke Shaw replaces Antonio Valencia.
Substitution, Manchester United. Juan Mata replaces Ashley Young.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Wayne Hennessey.
Attempt saved. Paul Pogba (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Antonio Valencia.
Attempt missed. Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Patrick van Aanholt.
Foul by Chris Smalling (Manchester United).
Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Offside, Crystal Palace. Patrick van Aanholt tries a through ball, but Alexander Sørloth is caught offside.
Foul by Alexis Sánchez (Manchester United).
James Tomkins (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.