Crystal Palace 3 Sunderland 2

Last updated : 14 May 2004 By Footymad Previewer

Crystal Palace take a one-goal lead into the second leg of the play-off semi-final thanks to Andy Johnson's late winner in an enthralling contest.

The first half was tense with both sides over-cautious and wary of making mistakes.

Palace had most of the play but Sunderland were composed and restricted the home side to just one chance, which Julian Gray blasted over on the half-hour mark.

The nearest Sunderland came to scoring in the first period was from John Oster, whose free-kick dipped just over.

After the break the match truly exploded. Marcus Stewart stroked home a 51st minute penalty for the Wearsiders after Tony Popovic floored Carl Robinson, but within two minutes Palace were level.

Neil Shipperley stooped low to head a Dannny Granville cross over keeper Mart Poom, who was caught marginally off his line.

Then on 64 minutes Michael Hughes rolled a free-kick some 25 yards out and Danny Butterfield drove low into the right corner after a large deflection of Phil Babb's right boot.

The Black Cats proceeded to have a good spell and they levelled five minutes from the end of the game. Palace were unable to clear a cross into the box and big striker Kevin Kyle eventually drove the ball home from eight yards out after a frantic scramble.

But Palace had the final say just two minutes later when Gray fed Johnson down the left channel, the Palace hitman cleverly cut inside before shooting low past Poom to send the Palace fans wild.

Palace boss Iain Dowie said: " It was a close encounter, but perhaps we shaded it. I was pleased with our response after the penalty. Sometimes penalty decisions go for you, sometimes they don't.

"I'm delighted with our lead, but we have got it all to do on Monday. The tie is very much in the balance." Sunderland's manager Mick McCarthy said: "With just one goal in it it's going to make an exciting match on Monday.

"Palace were the better side in the first half and at the end we were happy being one goal behind."