All of the Time - Every little thing is gonna be all-Dwight

Happy times: Dwight Gayle gets the congratulations after his second goal against Fulham on Saturday

Happy times: Dwight Gayle gets the congratulations after his second goal against Fulham on Saturday

First published in Football
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Sutton Guardian: Photograph of the Author by

The party atmosphere at Craven Cottage was incredible.

I spent the game with a smile and a temporary tattoo of the old Eagles badge stuck to my face, while blow-up bananas, beach balls and an inflatable Zimmer frame bounced around my head.

The roaring, jumping mass charged through renditions of essentially every single chant, including police-baiting "we're going on the pitch" and support for Derby in their play-off against Brighton.

From high in the stand looking down, the colourful, moving throng of people had something old-fashioned about them. Maybe it was the antiquated surroundings of Fulham's ground but it felt like looking at footage from 1990, all balloons and streamers, smiles everywhere.

And in a lot of ways this is the happiest moment for Palace supporters since those halcyon early-90s days.

We've had our ups in the intervening 24 years; it's hard to compare much with survival at Hillsborough or last year's play-off final, but those were fleeting moments. We've had to accept the inevitable disappointment, struggle or anti-climax afterwards.

Pulis can see a future at Crystal Palace for Dwight Gayle

This time we've survived in the top tier of English football for the first time since its TV-inspired rebranding.

Being pessimistic, maybe we've simply prolonged the eventual misery to come in a year's time.

But in that triumphant, carnival atmosphere it felt like this survival really means something.

It's a vindication of our passionate support, justification of CPFC2010’s methods and a resounding, ultimate endorsement of Tony Pulis: miracle worker.

Plus, it’s a real opportunity to go from strength to strength rather than up and down for once.

Nobody could get upset about Fulham's equaliser. It was irritating for a second, but a spectacular and meaningless goal.

The wall of noise generated by the travelling fans within moments of the ball clipping the bar quickly eradicated any ill feeling.

It must have been a kick in the teeth for Fulham to have their final moment of Premier League football overshadowed by such carefree, jubilant celebration.

In the same way as the heroic fight back against Liverpool felt fuelled by the Holmesdale sucking the ball towards the Reds' goal, against Fulham it was as though the Palace crowd kept the ball out for long periods of the game - before willing Dwight Gayle's beautiful free kick to curl graciously around the wall.

Gayle, with four goals in two games, cemented his place as Crystal Palace's top scorer for the entire season.

Suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so ludicrous having broken our record transfer fee for the untested Peterborough striker.

Maybe this wasn't quite as surprising as it all sounds, Jason Puncheon was just beaten to the Eagles' golden boot but neither man hit double figures.

Sutton Guardian:

Easy does it: An inflatable zimmer frame does the rounds

Yet Gayle has only started nine games for Palace in all competitions. The fact he’s scored eight times in 2013/14 shows what sort of remarkable, explosive and deadly finisher he is - as well as how much of an evolution he's made despite the precious few minutes clocked up in his first season in red and blue.

At the start of the campaign his instinct and technique were there - the delicately glanced header at Anfield being a perfect example - but our managers did not trust him. That has all changed now. So has just about everything else.

Yesterday's atmosphere was like a mini play-off final or a cup semi-final, only the expectation, pressure and tension was replaced by glee, pride and a buoyant, careless joy.

Who knew the final day of the season would be so much fun or the score line so completely irrelevant?

Sutton Guardian:

Bang: Dwight Gayle finds the back of the net

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