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It was at precisely two o'clock on Saturday afternoon that Crystal Palace fans began to believe. They began to believe they could topple the champions. They began to believe that their fight against relegation wasn't a complete lost cause.

And that was all down to the return of one man – Wilfried Zaha.

Selhurst Park was electrified by the news their star man was fit enough to set pulses racing once more against a Chelsea side, who were clearly aggrieved that the flying winger had chosen the worst possible time to return for their trip across the capital.

Timid, toothless and uninspired in their first seven matches; Palace, and Zaha in particular, took it upon themselves to reinvigorate hopes at a delirious Selhurst Park.

Their stunning 2-1 victory was indebted to a colossal display of defensive resolve and sparkling pace on the counter attack as Chelsea were efficiently swept aside.

A first Premier League victory of the campaign has been long overdue, but was so unexpected in its fashion that it could prove the perfect tonic for Palace to banish the first two months of the season to the history books.

Zaha was outstanding in dragging the Eagles through some troubled moments as Chelsea pressed for a route back into the match but it was the effect his return had on his team-mates that was perhaps most telling.

“I thought he was excellent don't get me wrong,” Hodgson admitted.

“We're delighted to have him back but I thought it was a good team performance. I think it's a bit unfair that such a good performance is simply down to the fact that one good player who hasn't been playing returns.

“I thought our defending was excellent from the first minute to the last. Both Andros (Townsend) and Wilf made a big difference to our play.”

Hodgson is completely right. Palace were better than Chelsea all over the pitch.

But there is a sense that Zaha's impact in galvanising his team-mates is perhaps the most determining factor in the south Londoners being able to avoid the drop.

Expansive in his movement and excessive in his work rate, the flying Ivory Coast international knew he had to take the game to Chelsea in order to free the burden resting upon his team-mates' shoulders after such a terrible start.

But this is not seen as a challenge to the former Manchester United man. It's as though he thrives upon these situations and it most certainly rubs off on the entire squad.

“A championship is 38 matches and each match has it's own particular story,” Hodgson continued.

“Sometimes it's a good story and we would like to read that chapter again but unfortunately Saturday is another story.

“It would be very foolish to start thinking that because we've beaten Chelsea that we will beat Newcastle or West Ham.

“We've got to go back to square one, realise what we've done well and make certain that we reproduce that.”

The problem is that Palace now have something to lose: hope.

Zaha's scintillating return has bred new life back into a side, who just a week ago looked destined for the drop.

While Hodgson takes stock and looks ahead to another crunch Premier League encounter away at Newcastle, deep down he will know he has the perfect springboard to complete another perfect escape act.

“The longer you work the more consistent your message,” Hodgson added. “The more you can hammer home your messages that you regard as important.

“With a little bit of luck, they tend to sink in.”

For Palace the message is loud and clear.

A Zaha-inspired battled against relegation has ensued and has every chance of success.

Whether it's right or wrong to label Palace a one-man team is a debate that can prolong for weeks on end.

What Palace fans most care about is that their star man is back fit and firing and ready to take the fight to opposing teams; who dare question their survival ambitions?

Premier League