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BBC Sport's Ron Jones
"Astonishing scenes"
 real 14k

Palace caretaker boss Steve Kember
"The fans have been great"
 real 14k

Palace saviour Dougie Freedman
"It was down to teamwork"
 real 14k

Palace assistant coach Terry Bullivant
"We had a touch"
 real 14k

Palace striker Clinton Morrison -
"I thought we deserved it"
 real 14k

Palace stalwart David Hopkin
"We hung on in at the end"
 real 14k

Sunday, 6 May, 2001, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Palace survive at Stockport
Palace duo Morrison and Freedman celebrate
Palace duo Morrison and Freedman celebrate
Stockport 0-1 Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace took their desperate fight for survival down to the wire at Edgeley Park before Dougie Freedman secured First Division safety.

Palace looked to be slipping to relegation as time ran out at Stockport County and results elsewhere went against them.

But striker Freedman struck a spectacular winner - his third goal of a crucial week - with three minutes left to give Palace a priceless victory.

Morrison and Kember joy
Morrison and Kember joy
The goal sparked scenes of wild joy among Palace fans, players and backroom staff as they grabbed at the lifeline thrown to them by Freedman's goal

But even then they faced an anxious wait for confirmation that Huddersfield had lost at home to Birmingham City before they were able to celebrate in style.

It was a remarkable day for Palace's young chairman Simon Jordan, who sacked boss Alan Smith last week in a desperate attempt to retain their First Division status with only two games left.

Caretaker boss Steve Kember inspired victories at Portsmouth and Stockport to survive - and Palace had pulled off a remarkable escape.

Kember fielded an ultra-attacking line-up knowing a victory was the ultimate aim of a nervous afternoon.

Stockport's Thompson battles
Stockport's Thompson battles
Clinton Morrison was playing in a deeper role, but was still positive enough to get on the end of some good Palace attacks.

Steve Thompson played him in after 19 minutes, but Stockport keeper Lee Jones plunged at his feet - and he was denied again by another save three minutes later.

Stockport have been in impressive form at home, and Palace keeper Alex Kolinko had to be alert to save from Glynn Hurst from close range.


The most important issue is that we have stayed in Division One, and we can now build on this because nothing I have achieved in business means more to me than this
Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan
Mikael Forssell wasted Palace's best opportunity after 31 minutes when the Finn stole in unmarked in the penalty area, but dragged his finish wastefully wide.

American defender Gregg Berhalter joined Palace's attacking efforts, but sent a powerful drive from 25 yareds straight at Jones.

Results elsewhere at half-time meant Palace were down at that stage - and the message had clearly reached their players as they poured forward after the break.

But Stockport almost hit them with a sucker punch after 49 minutes when Hayden Mullins failed to find Kolinko, but the goalkeeper came to the rescue ahead of Hurst.

Palace came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock after 51 minutes when Finland international Aki Riihilahti looked to have scored, only for Stockport's Peter Clark to scramble his effort off the line.

The Londoners survived another anxious moment on the hour when Ali Gibb rounded Kolinko, but got his angles all wrong and was unable to score.

Kember stays calm
Kember stays calm
Palace knew they were in a parlous position, and brought on the experienced David Hopkin - whose last minute goal in the play-off final against Sheffield United in 1997 put the club in the Premiership - for Wayne Carlisle.

Stockport were still looking dangerous as Palace pressed forward in desperation, and Aaron Wilbraham was inches off target, hitting the side-netting with a rising drive.

The clock was ticking on Palace's stay in the First Division, but they had not given up hope and Stockport keeper Jones did well to hold a low cross from substitute Tommy Black.

Kember and his coaching staff held their heads in anguish on the touchline with nine minutes to go, as Morrison's cross rolled tamely across the face of goal with no-one to apply the crucial finishing touch.

But Palace fans were joyous with three minutes left when they took the lead with a brilliant individual goal from Dougie Freedman.

Stockport appealed for what they felt was a clear handball against Hopkin at one end, but Palace swept to the other end and Freedman ended a real route one run into the penalty area with a stunning right foot finish.

Palace survived some scares before the final whistle, but they had completed a stunning recovery.


Stockport: Jones, Gibb, Flynn, Clare, Woodthorpe, Smith, Fradin, Kuqi, Clark, Wilbraham, Hurst. Subs: Nicholson, Roget, Bryngelsson, Briggs, Maxwell.

Crystal Palace: Kolinko, Austin, Mullins, Berhalter, Smith, Thomson, Carlisle, Riihilahti, Forssell, Morrison, Freedman. Subs: Gregg, Hankin, Evans, Black, Hopkin.

Referee: A Leake (Darwen)

Links to more Eng Div 1 stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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