SHAMBOLIC Sunderland produced an epic collapse for the second time in three home games, as the feel-good factor from the Wear-Tyne derby disintegrated.
Far from Dick Advocaat’s side using a fifth successive victory over Newcastle United as a launchpad away from danger, Sunderland reverted to type after conceding four goals in 14 second half minutes.
The opening half had been a scrappy, ugly affair, with little to pick between the two sides.
But once Glenn Murray had headed Palace ahead straight after the restart, Sunderland went to pieces, with the Black Cats unable to cope with a more direct approach from Alan Pardew’s side.
The excellent Yannick Bolasie helped himself to an 11-minute hat-trick, with Sunderland skipper John O’Shea repeatedly exposed by the pace in the Palace attack.
Connor Wickham pulled one back at the death with his fifth season, but it did nothing to gloss over Sunderland’s capitulation.
Fit-again Jack Rodwell - who missed the Wear-Tyne derby with a minor hamstring injury - was the like-for-like replacement for the suspended Seb Larsson in the middle of the park, in the only change from Dick Advocaat.
Palace boss Alan Pardew made two changes, with Pape Souare and captain Mile Jedinak - back from suspension - preferred to Joe Ledley and Martin Kelly.
Sunderland completely monopolised possession in the early stages, with Palace happy to sit deep, keep their defensive shape and look to cause a problem on the counter-attack.
But Palace gradually began to get into the game - Billy Jones allowing a dangerous low cross to come in from Yannick Bolasie which was cleared by Santiago Vergini in the goalmouth, before Jason Puncheon’s low shot from the edge of the area was saved low to his right by Costel Pantilimon.
Jack Rodwell was then fortunate to only receive a yellow card for a late, lunging challenge on James McArthur on the edge of the Sunderland box.
From the resulting free-kick, Puncheon’s left-footed delivery deflected off Lee Cattermole and bounced just wide of the far post.
Those few moments swung the momentum in Palace’s favour, with Pardew’s side on top and Sunderland struggling to get forwards.
But it didn’t really last, with the game becoming increasingly scrappy and dominated by a succession of fouls.
A minute before the interval, Steven Fletcher drew a routine save out of Julian Speroni low to his left after the Scot met Patrick van Aanholt’s left-wing cross on the volley.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 0 Palace 1
Three minutes after the restart, Palace broke the deadlock when Bolasie gathered the ball on the right-hand side of the area and his cross took a huge deflection off Vergini.
It wrong-footed the Sunderland defence and landed on a plate for Murray, who was able to head home from a couple of yards out.
Three minutes later, Palace doubled their advantage as Sunderland’s defence was caught sleeping.
Murray flicked on a high ball forwards, Vergini missed the interception and Bolasie got in behind the Sunderland back-line before poking the ball beyond the advancing Pantilimon.
It got even worse for Sunderland, with a third Palace goal in five minutes, when the Black Cats failed to deal with a hopeful Jedinak punt forwards.
Bolasie got the wrong side of John O’Shea, beat the skipper for pace and then lobbed the ball over Pantilimon.
Sunderland were fortunate not to concede a fourth on the hour mark, when O’Shea’s awful touch propelled Murray in behind the home defence, but with Pantilimon advancing out of his goal, the striker lobbed a cross-come-shoot wide of the mark.
But Sunderland’s resistance remained powder-puff and the collapse continued in the 62nd minute as, yet again, Advocaat’s men failed to deal with a routine high ball forwards.
O’Shea utterly misjudged the flight off the ball and then was bounced off it by Murray, with referee Anthony Taylor waving play on.
Murray’s low cross from the right-hand side of the area took a slight deflection off Vergini, but Bolasie still got to the ball first and despite the best efforts of Pantilimon to scramble it away, the Palace man completed his hat-trick.
Pantilimon was called into action to prevent a fifth in the 66th minute when Palace broke with searing pace, but the Sunderland keeper kept out James McArthur’s volley to Puncheon’s cross.
Sunderland pulled one back in the last minute when Wickham cushioned a volley beyond Speroni after an excellent run down the left from van Aanholt.
The left-back then almost pulled another back in stoppage time, but his left-footed half-volley from the edge of the area was tipped onto the bar by Speroni.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 1 Crystal Palace 4
SUNDERLAND: Pantilimon, Jones, O’Shea, Vergini, van Aanholt, Cattermole (Bridcutt 65), Rodwell, Gomez (Johnson 59), Wickham, Fletcher, Defoe. Subs not used: Mannone, Coates, Buckley, Graham, Reveillere. Booked: Rodwell (15), Cattermole (24)
CRYSTAL PALACE: Speroni, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Soare (Kelly 35), Jedinak, McArthur (Ledley 69), Puncheon, Zaha, Bolasie (Sanogo 71), Murray. Subs not used: Hennessey, Hangeland, Gayle, Ameobi. Booked: McArthur (67)