The result temporarily took Liverpool atop the Premier League table on 81 points, one ahead of second-placed Manchester City and two ahead of Chelsea. But the Reds—who stormed to the top of the table this spring following a stirring run of 11 straight victories—will now need help from their closest pursuers to win the title.
Liverpool finish the season Sunday against Newcastle at Anfield, where a home win would give Brendan Rodgers' side 84 points. City, meanwhile, have two matches remaining and would finish with 86 points if they win both.
In addition, City hold a nine-goal advantage in goal differential, the first tiebreaker used when two Premier League clubs finish level on points. Thus, if City and Liverpool both finish with the same amount of points, City would almost certainly win the title on goal differential.
Joe Allen gave Liverpool a first-half lead before Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez scored in quick succession shortly after half-time. But despite holding a three-goal lead with just over 20 minutes left, the Reds couldn't hold on.
Damien Delaney pulled back Crystal Palace's first goal in the 79th minute, followed by substitute Dwight Gayle's late double, as the Eagles thrilled Selhurst Park and stunned their title-challenging visitors.
As ESPN's Richard Jolly pointed out via Twitter, Gayle was an unlikely hero for the hosts:
Dwight Gayle was playing non-league football two years ago. He might just have helped decide the Premier League title.— Richard Jolly (@RichJolly) May 5, 2014
Needing to make up significant ground in goal differential, Liverpool established possession early and set out to attack. A first good chance came in the eighth when Steven Gerrard picked out an unmarked Mamadou Sakho with a corner, but the French defender headed wide.
The Reds had another opportunity in the 15th minute as Allen played a pass over the top for full-back Glen Johnson, who was making an angled run into the box. Johnson timed his leap to meet the pass but sent a looping header just over the bar.
Three minutes later, Liverpool broke through. Gerrard curled in a corner for Allen, who had lost his marker with a run to the back post. From there, Allen directed in a low header for a 1-0 lead.
1 - Joe Allen's goal was the first Crystal Palace have conceded from a set-piece under Tony Pulis in the PL. Shock.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 5, 2014
737 - Joe Allen has ended a spell of 737 days without a Premier League goal (last scored for Swansea in April 2012). Patient.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 5, 2014
Liverpool nearly had a second in the 31st minute, but Suarez curled a free-kick from distance just wide of the top corner.
Crystal Palace, meanwhile had chances of their own. In the 33rd minute, Jason Puncheon tested Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet with a low shot from distance that Mignolet just managed to parry away. Two minutes later, Mignolet had to be alert again to tip over Mile Jedinak's high drive from outside the box.
As half-time approached, Suarez came closing again. After latching onto a through ball and dribbling wide, the Uruguayan shot from a tight angle, forcing Julian Speroni to save low at his near post in the 42nd minute. Then in stoppage time, Allen sliced a shot wide from the left side of the box.
After the break, Liverpool came close yet again, as Speroni pushed Sturridge's fine curling shot onto the upright in the 51st minute. The rebound bounced to Suarez, who blasted off target from a tight angle. Two minutes later, Sturridge wouldn't be denied.
Collecting a long ball just outside Palace's box, Sturridge cut inside on his favoured left foot and rolled a deflected shot past Speroni for a 2-0 Liverpool lead in the 53rd minute.
The Reds hardly wasted a second celebrating, instead setting out to resume the attack immediately. And another goal came just two more minutes later.
After taking possession in the middle, Suarez played a one-two with Raheem Sterling and steered in his finish through Speroni's legs for his 31st goal of the season—and Liverpool's third of the night.
Palace 0-3 #LFC (60'): Luis Suarez brings his EPL season total to 31, equalling the best for a single player in a 38 match PL season.— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaLive) May 5, 2014
Leading by three goals, the result felt secure. Instead, however, Palace found the scoresheet next, Delaney driving a high, deflected shot past Mignolet in the 79th minute to pull a goal back at 3-1.
At 3-1, it was then only a stutter for Liverpool, but within moments Palace scored again. After successfully defending a Liverpool corner, Tony Pulis' side broke forward down the pitch in the 81st minute. Yannick Bolasie led the move down the left before pulling back for Gayle, who redirected into the net to make it 3-2.
Suddenly the result was in doubt—but the biggest plot twist was still to come. In the 88th minute, Glenn Murray chested down a long pass into the path of Gayle, who kept his composure to finish low with his first touch and complete Palace's unlikely comeback.
Liverpool weren't done yet, though, and the Reds had a chance to grab a dramatic winner in stoppage time as Lucas Leiva's shot was blocked following a scramble in front of Palace's goal.
When the final whistle blew, the disappointment was obvious on the faces of Liverpool's players, who struggled to control their emotions. For Palace, meanwhile, it will go down as one of the most memorable comebacks in the club's history, and for neutrals, it will serve as the latest thrilling moment in a thoroughly compelling title race.
The 24th lead change in the Premier League title race (via Sky Sports)— Anthony Lopopolo (@sportscaddy) May 5, 2014
|Dwight Gayle (for Puncheon, 65')||N/A||9|
|Glenn Murray (for Chamakh, 71')||N/A||7|
|Thomas Ince (for Dikgacoi, 85')||N/A||5|
|Philippe Coutinho (for Sterling, 78')||N/A||6|
|Victor Moses (for Sturridge, 86')||N/A||5|
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers: "We needed to win tonight.., I think Man City will go on and win the two games and be champions."— Premier League (@premierleague) May 5, 2014
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers: "For us to get to 81 points is a great achievement. We will go again, keeping looking to build and develop."— Premier League (@premierleague) May 5, 2014