Leeds United 1 Crystal Palace 5: Baffling collapse sees Whites surrender from position of strength
Quite how Crystal Palace managed to win by that scoreline was utterly baffling.
It looked for all the world as if Leeds United were heading for a victory which would push them a long way towards Premier League safety. Instead, they failed to beat a relegation rival for the first time under Javi Gracia.
But it was far worse than that, it was a morale-battering, head-scratching hammering.
Softness a set-pieces opened the door for Palace but it was Leeds's timorousness and some hopeless defending which rolled out the red carpet for the visitors and practically begged them to take the three points.
So they did.
"All Leeds are we" sang the home fans before kick-off during the minute's applause to Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight and for 25 minutes, the game was all Leeds too.
In the end it would be another Elland Road favourite – of away fans – which told the story. Leeds were inexplicably falling apart.
When the game kicked off, the Whites attacked with a verve carried over from their midweek victory at Nottingham Forest, Palace just never got started.
Brenden Aaronson was having his best game in a long time, and shots were raining down on Sam Johnstone's goal.
Luis Sinisterra dragged one wide after three minutes when Marc Guehi failed to deal with a Luke Ayling cross but seconds later the centre-back put in a really good tackle to stop Aaronson making it into the penalty area.
Johnstone made the first in a series of good saves when Aaronson got a clever flicked finish to Junior Firpo cross.
Ayling had a centre beaten away, then Sinisterra twice failed to make headers count, putting the first firmly at the goalkeeper, not getting enough on the second, diving effort.
The Norman Hunter Stand in particular responded, although the rest of Elland Road eagerly followed its lead.
Patrick Bamford's shot wide from distance was one of confidence even if it missed the target and it was the striker who broke the deadlock.
When he headed in Aaronson's corner for his 50th Leeds goal, Bamford ran straight to the bench, followed by ecstatic team-mates. That it was Georginio Rutter, the forward he is keeping out of the team who caught him in his arms spoke volumes for the spirit Gracia has generated. Somehow it would completely evaporate.
At that stage anything other than a thumping home win looked inconceivable. Leeds had 11 efforts at goal before Palace managed one.
But the goal shook them awake and within two minutes they had signaled to themselves as much as the rest of us how they could get back into the game.
Jeffrey Schlupp headed against a post at a corner and Firpo had to clear Guehi's goalbound effort from the next one.
Leeds kept up their attacking impetus but Johnstone maintained his standards too and Palace's threat was always lingering in the background.
Johnstone made a brilliant save from Jack Harrison's low curling free-kick, then from Pascal Struijk's header at a corner but inbetween time Michael Olise headed wide at another corner – Palace's third, all of them throwing up good chances to score.
So it was no surprise the Eagles ended the half on level terms, and that they did so from a set-piece, just not a flag kick.
Having not long ago hit a free-kick straight at Illan Meslier, Olise won another right at the end of the first half which Schlupp touched on with his back for Guehi to put into the net.
The Leeds players immediately turned to the linesman who steadfastly refused to raise his flag and video assistant referee Graham Scott was able to prove why, the goalscorer just behind Robin Koch at the crucial nanosecond.
And when the game restarted after half-time, Leeds did not.
It was as if that concession had made them forget how well they had played for the 45 minutes proceeding it and before they could get back into the game, they were out of it completely.
It was the 53rd minute when Ayling put a baffling amount of air on a lofted switch of play, practically begging Joel Ward to win the header against too little resistance from Harrison. From there Palace powered down the right and when the ball came across it was Ayling's boots in concrete as Jordan Ayew ran in front to head in.
Twice Olise was given far too much space to pick a killer pass. Eberechi Eze ran onto the first to make it 3-1.
The second came after a spell of pressure which saw Harrison lay a deep cross back to no one, Tyrick Mitchell dispossess Bamford after a couple of stabbed passes played him in and Ayling miskick a volley. Palace broke with Oilse in so much space he must have wondered if the referee had blown his whistle but he carried on and threaded the ball to Ayew.
With 20 minutes to go, Leeds fans headed for the exits.
"We want five!" chanted Palace fans who would have been grateful for one not long earlier and they nearly got it, Meslier's outstretched left glove just stopping Ayew taking the ball around him.
They only had to wait two minutes for it, mind.
Leeds standing still assuming Ayew must be offside from Will Hughes's deflected shot, ignoring the fact Rasmus Kristensen, thrown on in a desperate triple substitution on the hour, was playing two attackers on.
Olise should have had a sixth, twisting into a scoring position only to blast over.
Leeds are 16th in the Premier League, Palace up to 12th. Quite how is baffling.
Leeds United: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Struijk, Firpo (Kristensen 60); McKennie, Roca; Harrison, Aaronson (Gnonto 60), Sinisterra (Rodrigo 60); Bamford (Rutter 79).
Unused substitutes: Forshaw, Cooper, Summerville, Robles, Greenwood.
Crystal Palace: Johnstone; Ward (Clyne 86), Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell; Eze, Doucoure (Milivojevic 80), Schlupp (McArthur 80); Olise, Edouard (Hughes 74), Ayew (Mateta 80).
Unused substitutes: Tomkins, Lokonga, Whitworth, Riedewald.
Referee: S Hooper (Swindon).