Jason Puncheon could afford a wry smile at the full-time whistle here. From bungler to saviour in the space of a week, the midfielder redeemed himself for an embarrassing penalty miss at Tottenham by scoring the match-winner to claw Crystal Palace out of the Premier League's relegation zone, after they started the day bottom of the table.

How crucial a victory this could be for Palace come the end of the season. Tony Pulis, applauded warmly by the travelling Stoke fans, who unfurled a banner in his honour before kick-off, will have been particularly pleased by the performance – another solid if not scintillating display that has been a hallmark of his time in south London so far.

His former club were short of ideas and frustrated in their efforts to feed Peter Crouch. Puncheon, meanwhile, capitalised on some woeful defending shortly after half-time to shuffle inside and finish well past Jack Butland, seven days after slicing a terrible spot-kick wide at White Hart Lane.

Pulis said: "We had no problems with Puncheon. He missed a penalty, albeit by a great distance, but that's what happens in life. The most important thing for him was to get back and do what he does best."

The result ensured that Palace leapfrogged four teams in the table, but Pulis, who admitted it was "surreal" to face Stoke from the opposition dugout, insisted the elevation in the league must not lead to complacency.

"This is not the defining moment. The defining moment is in the future, so what we've got to do is make sure we keep our feet on the ground and hope and pray that we can bring some players in," he added.

"It was funny coming out and seeing the Stoke supporters, having been there for 10 years. It must have been surreal for them and it was certainly surreal for me."

Midfield was congested throughout the match, but Yannick Bolasie used his trickery to good effect early on, beating the Stoke right-back Geoff Cameron and delivering a precise cross from the left, which was headed narrowly wide by Joel Ward.

That was as good as it got for Palace in the opening 45 minutes, but Stoke were equally short of creativity in attack. Their sole opportunity came after 15 minutes when Marc Wilson forced a fine save from Julián Speroni, who dived low to his right to tip a header wide.

Stoke almost took the lead immediately after half time but, after good work from Jon Walters, Charlie Adam's right-foot short bobbled narrowly past Speroni's right-hand post. Shortly afterwards, though, Palace were in front.

When it arrived, Puncheon's goal came out of nothing. Stoke looked to have alleviated any danger only for Oussama Assaidi to needlessly give the ball away in his own penalty area, inadvertently diverting it into the path of Puncheon, who shuffled inside and fired a low shot into the bottom corner, somehow evading attempted blocks from Wilson and Ryan Shawcross.

"We're better than that," said the Stoke manager, Mark Hughes. "You can't allow consecutive errors to happen at this level. Inevitably they lead to goals. We've got to be better in that regard.

"We're still looking to see if there are opportunities to bring more of a threat to the group than we have at the moment. Certainly if there are opportunities to bring more quality in then we'll do that."

Palace were denied a second late on following a wonderful triple save by Butland, keeping out Ward, Puncheon and Stuart O'Keefe all in the space of a few seconds, before the England goalkeeper kept out Puncheon again in the dying minutes. It was a frantic finish, but Palace held on for a vital three points.