This time two months ago Newcastle were three points off the relegation zone and, with last season's substandard campaign still in mind, Alan Pardew's job was said to be in jeopardy. Now they are three points off fourth-placed Chelsea. This emphatic victory at the ground where Pardew made his name as a player was Newcastle's sixth in eight matches and the latest evidence that Mike Ashley was right not to be panicked into replacing his manager.

Pardew says he does not know how high his team can go but he is certainly not talking them down. "The truth of it is we're playing really well," said Pardew. "We have a team that looks dangerous and even the top teams will not relish playing us."

Palace surely did not enjoy the experience. They had been in impressive form themselves going into this game but they emerged from it with a reminder of how precarious their Premier League survival remains, especially with seven players still missing through injury.

At first there was little difference between the sides. Newcastle wore their Brazil-inspired yellow and blue away kit but the wind and driving rain stressed that Croydon is a long way from the Copacabana and the opening exchanges owed more to punk than samba. There was ample energy but little finesse.

Only after 15 minutes of midfield skirmishing did a goalkeeper have to make a save, with Tim Krul comfortably holding a 25-yard Barry Bannan free-kick.

Gradually Newcastle introduced beauty to the game. The return of Yohan Cabaye meant they fielded the same side that had beaten Manchester United in their last away trip and in the 17th minute they finally worked their way in behind a Palace defence that had conceded only three goals in the previous six matches.

Fittingly, the opportunity was created by two players whose improvement in the last two months has been integral to Newcastle's strong run, as an astute pass by Vurnon Anita sent Mathieu Debuchy racing down the right. The full-back delivered a dangerous cross towards Loic Rémy, only for Danny Gabbidon to intervene. Cabaye took the resultant corner and Debuchy met it at the near post, glancing a header narrowly wide.

Palace's forwards frequently had to retreat to defend but Marouane Chamakh was made to look inadequate in the 25th minute when Moussa Sissoko tricked his way past him in the right-back position and then teed up Cabaye, whose first-time effort from 12 yards took a slight deflection as it whizzed past Julián Speroni and into the net.

Palace responded well, with Cameron Jerome forcing an awkward save from Krul on the half-hour mark. The goalkeeper bungled badly from the ensuing corner, surging off his line with his arm in the air like a man hailing an invisible taxi as the ball flew way over his head. Mike Williamson, taken by surprise, diverted it towards his own goal and was grateful to see Anita wallop it clear. However, the Palace insurrection was soon suppressed, as in the 39th minute Gabbidon, perhaps duped by the skiddy surface, diverted another Debuchy cross into his own goal.

With Sissoko and Debuchy tormenting Dean Moxey, Tony Pulis made two half-time substitutions to change his left flank but Newcastle remained in control. A ferocious 25-yard free-kick from Cabaye almost swerved past Speroni but the goalkeeper improvised well to swipe it away with his trailing leg.

Palace's best chance came in the 68th minute, when Chamakh nodded a Jason Puncheon free-kick back across goal but Cameron Jerome failed to control his volley, wafting it into the stands from eight yards. "If he scores that, it could be a different game," lamented Tony Pulis.

Moments later a Newcastle counterattack led to the excellent Cabaye curling a shot inches wide from the corner of the home box. Cabaye then wasted a glaring chance when put clean through. Yoan Gouffran struck the crossbar late on but, in the end, the near misses did not matter.

Newcastle had already made sure of victory on an afternoon when the only negative was another bland display by Rémy, whose fifth successive match without a goal ended early as he was replaced by Shola Ameobi. The Nigeria international won a penalty in the dying minutes when he was brought down by Jonathan Parr, enabling Hatem Ben Arfa to complete the scoring. "Irrespective of our performance, I have to say Newcastle were excellent," admitted Pulis.