David Moyes admitted that Sunderland were deservedly bottom of the Premier League after his side surrendered a two-goal lead to leave them propping up the rest of the division, their abject start to the season showing no sign of abating.
The Scot refused to make excuses, turning the spotlight on his under-performing players in the wake of conceding a stoppage-time winner by Christian Benteke. "They need to take responsibility, because I can't always lead them by the hand," he insisted after the Wearside club went a fourth successive season without recording a win in the opening two months of the campaign. He added: "They need to take responsibility for what they do on the pitch because we are where we deserve to be in the table."
Alan Pardew had words of comfort for his counterpart after rounding-off a profitable return to the North-East, his side deservedly recording a third consecutive top flight win for the first time in almost 18 months. "It's always nice to be back in this part of the world," the former Newcastle manager said. He added "I've had some sticky days up here, but plenty of good days as well. I thought Sunderland played some good stuff, and I have sympathy for David, I really do. They've got a great manager here and some great players, they just need to get a win."
Where that win comes from is difficult see, and it is of little concern to Pardew, who is concerned with rather more lofty ambitions. After seeing his team make it six points from trips to Teesside and Wearside, he added: "The margin between us and the top teams is not that great. I'd include Southampton and Everton in that group, we're all pushing and jostling to challenge the top sides, and if we continue to play like we did today, then I'll be overjoyed."
The Eagles' form is in stark contrast to the second part of last season, when they were in freefall. "Everyone keeps pointing back to last season," said Pardew. "That's why we've changed things around. We've got goals in us now with the likes of Christian and Andros Townsend. We'd never have scored three goals in the second half of last season like we did today."
The decisive period of play arrived in a 60-second spell midway through the second half, when Jermain Defoe found the bottom corner with a left foot shot from Duncan Watmore's deflected cross to double Sunderland's lead on the hour as the hosts enjoyed their best spell. Before they had time to even think about trying to shut up shop, Joe Ledley halved his side's arrears, firing past Jordan Pickford from 20 yards with the help of a deflection off Patrick van Aanholt after the hosts failed to deal with Damien Delaney's lofted pass into the area.
Palace were level 14 minutes later when van Aanholt was out-jumped by James McArthur, who headed home an inviting cross from a telling first touch by the substitute, Zeki Fryers. It capped a turbulent seven days for Sunderland's Dutch defender, who came in for criticism from Moyes in the wake of being pictured smoking a shisha pipe, the photos emerging days after the full-back had been pulled out of the defeat to Tottenham following a heart scare.
Palace pressed for a winner, and were rewarded when Benteke was afforded time and space to head home a free-kick from Lee Chung-Yong. "For us not to do the basics and not go with Benteke when we've given away a poor free-kick is entirely our own fault," conceded the Sunderland manager, whose side had taken a 39th-minute lead when Defoe pounced on a back-pass from Ledley to poke a shot into the bottom corner.
"He's arguably the best header of a ball in the Premier League and yet we give him a free run and jump. We hadn't played well enough to be two goals up. I was still happy to take that all day long, but at the moment we're making life difficult for ourselves."