Pompey 2 Crystal Palace 1

Luke Varney's shot it turned on to the upright by Julian Speroni. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121352-288)
Luke Varney's shot it turned on to the upright by Julian Speroni. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121352-288)
Smoke bombs were let off during Pompey's match against Charlton today. Picture: Joe Pepler

Steward treated after smoke bombs let off following Pompey defeat

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The fight continues, the Great Escape Mk II is still showing, Championship football remains at Fratton Park.

The dream – unquestionably improbable – still exists.

Whisper it softly, but the belief Pompey could avoid relegation is growing by the victory.

Their latest landmark result came last night in the form of a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace.

Scorelines elsewhere were just as crucial – Coventry losing at home to Millwall and Bristol City drawing with West Ham.

The outcome is Pompey are now five points off safety, with two matches remaining.

From heading towards relegation on Saturday, Michael Appleton’s men are now effectively two matches away from safety.

The hosts had two fortunate goals to thank for the Fratton victory which kept them in the survival hunt.

Not that the Fratton faithful will be concerned over their authenticity.

Scott Allan grabbed the lead on 32 minutes with a 30-yard shot which deflected wickedly off Nathaniel Clyne.

There was also a touch of good fortune about Greg Halford’s goal – a 55th-minute far-post header which ricocheted off Julian Speroni and into the net.

Antonio Pedroza struck a post and Darren Ambrose sparked a nervy finale after scoring a penalty in the 71st minute.

In the final seconds, Paddy McCarthy scored following a free-kick, only for it to be ruled out for a foul on Jamie Ashdown.

Then Pompey fans had to endure five minutes of time added on. It proved an agonising wait.

But that final whistle came, to ferocious cheers from the home crowd as the gap between Bristol City was closed by another two points.

Derby are next to visit Fratton Park on Saturday – and fans will be hoping this magnificent late rally will maintain its momentum.

Last night there was a recall for Dave Kitson, following his Keepmoat Stadium heroics at the weekend.

He replaced Kelvin Etuhu, who was unavailable following a family bereavement.

Whether Kitson would have taken the place anyway of the former Manchester City winger would be a matter of great debate.

Regardless, he came into a front three, with Luke Varney pushed to the left-hand side and Chris Maguire situated on the right.

That was the only change to the team which so dramatically won at Doncaster, despite the impacts of Kitson’s fellow substitutes that day – Ashley Harris and Marko Futacs.

Both had to make do with places on the bench, with Sam Magri called up to take the place of Kitson among the substitutes.

Joel Ward and Jason Pearce, both injury doubts, were declared fit enough to keep their places in the Blues’ defence.

However, Benjani (ankle) and Tal Ben Haim (calf) were both once again absent, along with the out-of-favour Kanu.

When the match kicked off, Pompey were indebted to Ricardo Rocha, who prevented them falling behind in the seventh minute.

Karim Rekik was pulled up for shirt tugging and from the resulting free-kick McCarthy sent a free header on goal, only to see it blocked by the veteran defender.

Moments later, Wilfried Zaha crashed in a fierce effort from the edge of the area which produced a superb block from Ashdown and the ball was cleared.

Palace were looking the better side and in the 15th minute Pedroza drove in a 25-yarder which Ashdown gathered low down.

At the other end, Maguire sent in a deep cross from the right which Speroni was forced to claw over his bar as it drifted dangerously towards the net.

Pedroza then produced an improbable miss in the 22nd minute to deprive his side of a well-deserved lead

Rocha’s slip in the box let in Chris Martin, and he cleverly squared to the unmarked Mexican, who somehow chipped the ball over the bar and the gaping goal from just six yards out.

Barely a minute later, Allan slid the ball into the path of Varney who fired in a fierce first-time angled shot which was tipped on to the far post by Speroni before it bounced clear.

And it was Pompey who took the lead in the 32nd minute, albeit via a wicked deflection.

Allan decided to fire in a right-footed drive from 30 yards and it cannoned off the back of Clyne and ricocheted past the helpless Speroni and into the net.

After the break, Ward’s cross from the right deflected to David Norris’ inside the box, but his shot hit a Palace player and bounced out for a corner.

In the 52nd minute, Clyne crossed from the right and Pedroza drove a shot against the post, with Zaha sending his follow up into the side-netting.

Pompey, though, increased their lead in the 55th minute.

Allan took a corner from the left, which found Halford completely unmarked at the far post, and his header struck Speroni and deflected into the net. The visitors pulled a goal back in the 71st minute after Varney fouled Zaha inside the box.

Ambrose stepped up to confidently finish from the spot.

And it set up a nervy finish, with the fourth official signalling five minutes of time added on.

Yet the final whistle came and Appleton’s men are still firmly in the hunt to remain in the Championship.