Today marks the 26th anniversary of our 4-3 FA Cup semi-final win over Liverpool; a day of drama and elation that is understandably etched into the minds of each and every Palace fan forever more.
Having been on the end of a 9-0 hiding at the hands of Kenny Dalglish’s men just seven months before, Steve Coppell and his players arrived at Villa Park with an understandable sense of trepidation, but what was to unfold over the next couple of hours would change that completely, provoking our players and fans alike to hold realistic ambitions of lifting the trophy at Wembley a few weeks later.
After falling behind to an early Ian Rush goal, Mark Bright levelled the scores from close-range in the 46th minute, setting up a breathless second half that would leave everyone inside the ground feeling dizzy with nerves. The momentum had looked to be swinging Palace’s way after Gary O’Reilly gave us the lead on 70 minutes, but soon after Steve McMahon brought the Reds back to parity, ratcheting the atmosphere up another notch.
It was from there that the game would go into overdrive, thanks to a converted John Barnes penalty just two minutes after McMahon’s equaliser. Having been on the verge of making it into the FA Cup final just moments before, Palace were now facing elimination, not that it impacted on the work-rate of our players. With less than two minutes left of normal time, Andy Gray dragged us back to 3-3 in front of the Holte End that resembled a living, breathing sea of red and blue.
The game then lurched into extra time, which for the first 15 minutes at least, proved to be an extremely tense affair. It took until the 109th minute for us, and more specifically Alan Pardew to strike the final decisive blow, heading home with venom underneath the crossbar, unleashing scenes of utter ecstasy in front of him.
From that point on, Pardew and co. fought tooth and nail to maintain their narrow advantage, with the final whistle prompting an outpouring of joy from everyone of a red and blue persuasion. More than a quarter of a century has passed since, but it still sends a tingle down the spine of any Palace fan when brought up in conversation.