Harry Kane scored the only goal of the game with two minutes remaining to earn Tottenham Hotspur a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace.
The England forward had missed a succession of chances throughout the game but provided the moment that ultimately made the difference when his header crept through the hands of Wayne Hennessey.
The game was devoid of true quality and will probably be remembered more – if at all – for Serge Aurier’s three foul throws than the actual football. Spurs ultimately deserved the three points but were not their usual high-tempo, creating chances galore selves - perhaps due to Palace's compact formation and the Eagles' unwillingness to go forward too soon.
Palace, fielding a makeshift team that included 20-year-old academy debutant Aaron Wan-Bissaka due to an injury crisis, barely threatened Hugo Lloris’ goal, and when they did their efforts were tame. Andros Townsend was Palace’s most potent attacking threat with the confidence-stricken Christian Benteke still yet to prove that his nightmare season will improve. Townsend, a former Spurs player, cut inside in the first half but shot straight at Lloris with his side’s best chance.
The Eagles defended excellently but were lucky on a few occasions, with Kane and Aurier missing excellent chances, while Spurs were denied an almost certain penalty.
Tottenham were also poor and Kane, despite scoring, will rue several missed opportunities. He latched onto a scuffed Patrick van Aanholt clearance in the opening stages but found Hennessey in his way as he poked towards goal.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side saw two penalty appeals waved away as they struggled to break down a resolute Palace back four. The first came when Ben Davies found himself beyond Townsend from a Christian Eriksen free-kick and poked the ball towards goal, only to go over the desperate lunge of Hennessey and watch on in amazement when referee Kevin Friend waved play on.
Friend was then pointing to the spot, although only momentarily, soon after. Dele Alli poked the ball through to Kane who was brought down clumsily by Timothy Fosu-Mensah. However, the assistant referee had correctly deemed the Premier League’s top goal-scorer to have been in an offside position and Friend was forced to overrule his original decision.
In the second half, Palace were convinced they should have had a penalty of their own when the again impressive Alexander Sorloth raced through on goal, only to be stopped by Aurier. It initially seemed that the full-back had illegally prevented the Norwegian, although replays showed the Frenchman got the slightest touch on the ball and it was in fact an excellent tackle to deny Palace’s new £10 million his first goal for the club.
Having saved his side at one end, Aurier then produced one of the misses of the season at the other. Davies crossed from the left and his fellow full-back raced in at the back post unmarked and seemingly prepared to tap into an empty net from inside the six-yard box, only to instead see the ball hit the underside of his boot and bounce back across goal where van Aanholt was on hand to clear.
Kane the missed a similar opportunity, meeting a cross from the right and volleying towards goal from all of six yards, only to fire the ball well wide from an acute angle with everyone in the ground expecting the 24-year-old to hit the back of the net for the 35th time this season.
But that 35th goal of another remarkable season did eventually come. Palace had introduced Damien Delaney for the injured James Tomkins but the Irishman lost track of Kane in the penalty area, and the forward met Eriksen’s corner to steer a header towards goal which Hennessey failed to keep out despite getting a strong hand to the ball.
The result moved Tottenham into the top four and the Lilywhites will remain fourth if Chelsea lose their game at Manchester United this afternoon. Palace are 17th, level with 18-placed Swansea City.