Yannick Bolasie opened the scoring for the Eagles within the first six minutes, heading in from a corner routine that almost mirrored the goal that his manager, Alan Pardew, famously scored in the same round of the competition 26 years ago.
Watford captain Troy Deeney equalised ten minutes into the second-half but Connor Wickham wrote his name in Palace folklore just six minutes later with a powerful header that found the corner of Costel Pantilimon’s goal.
It was an historic day for Pardew’s side who now get the chance to get revenge over Manchester United in a repeat of the 1990 FA Cup final.
How did each Palace player perform at Wembley?
Defence solid but Dann lucky not to see red
Wayne Hennessey – 6: Looked nervous on several occasions, particularly from crosses, and could have controlled his penalty area much better. Made a couple of crucial saves but will be disappointed with Deeney’s goal having been slow to react to the Hornets striker’s header.
Joel Ward – 7: Dealt with Jose Manuel Jurado with ease and ventured forward to support Wilfried Zaha on the right-hand side once the Spaniard had seemingly stopped trying midway through the first-half. Delivered a couple of excellent crosses and was equally as good in the defensive third, particularly in the remaining minutes when Watford piled everyone forward.
Scott Dann – 7: Another dominant performance from Dann who was tasked with keeping Odion Ighalo quiet and passed the test with a fair amount of ease. The defender was fortunate not to be shown a second yellow card for a late foul in the second-half, but otherwise defended superbly.
Damien Delaney – 7: Similar to Dann, prevented Ighalo from getting in behind the Palace defence and was a match for Deeney at every header. Had a chance to extend Palace’s early 1-0 lead but could not react quickly enough to steer home Pantilimon’s poorly punched clearance.
Pape Souare – 8: Immense performance from the Senegalese left-back. Threw himself into every challenge, was intelligent when in possession and his cross for Wickham’s winner was top class. Slowly rekindling the form that earned him a good rapport with the Palace fans towards the end of last season.
Zaha and Bolasie steal the show as Wickham grabs match-winner
Wilfried Zaha – 9: Arguably one of his best Palace performances to-date. Hornets left-back Nathan Ake failed to keep up with the winger and he almost added to the score line late on with a surging run that started deep in his own half, but he was eventually crowded. Will relish the chance to perform against his old club in the final.
Yohan Cabaye – 7: The Frenchman kept the ball moving with several neat touches and a sublime variety of passes. Had a chance to clinch the result but failed to connect properly to a cut-back 25-yards from goal.
Mile Jedinak – 6: Broke up a couple of Watford attacks but was outmuscled by Deeney on many occasions which led to some of Watford’s best chances. Palace will need a much better performance from their captain in the final, but all will be forgotten if he’s the first-ever Eagles captain to lift the coveted trophy in May.
Jason Puncheon – 7: The wide midfielder produced a tidy display on the left-hand side. Puncheon attacked Allan Nyom well and also tracked back diligently to support Souare. Was replaced by Bakary Sako with ten minutes to go.
Connor Wickham – 8: The former Sunderland forward has had a frustrating season with injuries but some Palace fans will claim he has already repaid the £8 million that the club spent on him in the summer with a superb header that eventually won the tie. Apart from sloppily giving the ball away in the build-up to Deeney’s goal, Wickham held the ball up extremely well and failed to put a foot wrong. Received a well-deserved standing ovation when he was replaced by Emmanuel Adebayor with five minutes left.
Yannick Bolasie – 9: Gave Palace an early lead with a rare header at the far post and this gave the Congolese international a confidence boost which helped him throughout the game. Bolasie missed Palace’s last Wembley appearance in the 2013 Championship play-off final but surely made up for it with a fantastic performance. Seems to have added the ability to hold the ball up in central areas which has meant he has recently excelled playing as a centre forward. Almost doubled the lead early in the second-half but was denied expertly by Pantilimon.
Late subs play their part
James McArthur – NA: Slowly coming back to full fitness having returned to first team action in midweek against Manchester United. Replaced Bolasie after 73 minutes and solidified the midfield with Cabaye and Jedinak. Not given enough time to earn a rating.
Bakary Sako – NA: Replaced Puncheon late on as Palace sat deeper and needed a fresh attacking outlet further up the pitch. Certainly played his part with a few powerful runs but did not get enough time to have a big impact.
Emmanuel Adebayor – NA: Replaced the impressed Wickham as the clock ticked into the final stages of the game but his involvement was a rarity as the vast majority of the remaining minutes were spent in Palace’s half.