Crystal Palace 2 Manchester City 1. Another disastrous evening for Manchester City ended with Manuel Pellegrini having to answer questions about his future as manager.
The Sky Blues' defeat to Palace leaves them fourth, nine points behind Chelsea and also trailing Arsenal and Manchester United, all of whom won over the Easter weekend.
For City, it was their fourth consecutive defeat on the road on a night that only increased speculation about Pellegrini's future at the Etihad.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
"I am never concerned about my job," he replied when asked by reporters if he feared the sack at the end of the season. "That's the only thing I'm never concerned about. I do my work and am very happy. You maybe have a difficult season, but you never worry about things like this."
Asked if he had given up on the idea of retaining the title, considering that Chelsea also have a game in hand on their rivals, Pellegrini said: "Every point you drop makes it more difficult, but we are not thinking about the title, just about the next game at Old Trafford."
Sunday's Manchester derby is a must-win game for Pellegrini, whose side have taken 18 points from their past 12 games (eight fewer than United). Lose and the clamour from fans for change will mount and perhaps prompt the notoriously fickle City board into sacking Pellegrini in the summer.
After all the man Pellegrini replaced in the summer of 2013, Roberto Mancini, was fired 12 months after winning City's first Premier League title in 44 years after finishing second in the league and reaching the FA Cup Final.
City had the best chances in the first half hour at Selhurst Park but Palace keeper Julian Speroni produced a fine save to deny David Silva, while Sergio Aguero's shot post rattled the post. Then on 34 minutes Palace took the lead as Scott Dann's shot was saved by Joe Hart in the City goal, only to fall into the path of Glenn Murray who tapped in the rebound for his fifth goal in five games.
Despite claims from City that Murray was offside, the goal stood and the Palace man was at the centre of a second controversy in the second-half – by which time the hosts had extended their lead courtesy of a stunning free-kick from Jason Puncheon. Murray appeared to handle a shot from Fernandinho inside the Palace area on 70 minutes but Oliver waved away City appeals for a penalty.
Describing it as "a clear penalty", Pellegrini added: "It's difficult to understand the result. We played a very good game from beginning to end, had a lot of chances to score. Crystal Palace scored the first goal which was clearly offside, and then a beautiful free kick."
Yaya Toure did pull a goal back for City on 78 minutes but it proved nothing more than a consolation as Palace held on for their third consecutive league victory.
The Eagles could yet play a decisive role in deciding the top four finishers with fixtures against Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool to come, but for the moment manager Alan Pardew is enjoying a revival in form that has lifted Palace up to 11th.
"We gave a good description of what Palace is tonight," he said. "We've got three games before we play the big boys again and we could still be involved in some defining moments but we hope to pick up some points before then and keep creeping up the league if we can."
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.