Baggies move closer to 40-point mark with impressive first-half display
* Berahino first goal in the Premier League since October
* Albion score three in the opening half for the first time this season
* Victory takes Albion to 35 points, 11 games to play
* Win overshadowed by injury to Chris Brunt.
ALBION fought off a Crystal Palace fightback to claim a thrilling victory at The Hawthorns.
Leading 3-0 at the break with goals from Craig Gardner, Craig Dawson and Saido Berahino the Baggies were shaken when a defensive slip-up gave Palace a route back into the game through Connor Whickham in the 48th minute.
But in a thriller off pulsating ebb and flow, the visitors were restricted to a late second from Whickham as the Baggies hung on to a deserved three points.
Albion electrified The Hawthorns with a thrilling first 45 minutes ignited by a 12th minute opening goal. The midfielder converted following up from close range after an exchange of passes between Salomon Rondon and Berahino which would be an increasing encouraging feature for the home side.
With the Baggies increasingly dominant, Dawson hammered an unstoppable header direct from a Gardner free-kick – tenaciously won by Stephane Sessegnon – eight minutes later before one of the goals of the season established the three-goal lead.
A volleyed pass out of defence by Dawson was killed by Rondon who fed Sessegnon for a wonderful pass over the top of Palace’s defence.
And with the ball dropping over his shoulder, Berahino defeated Wayne Hennessey with a sublime volley into the corner.
The only problem for Albion during this outstanding first half was the sight of Chris Brunt being stretchered off with an injury shortly before the break.
Gardner and Berahino would strike the woodwork with efforts either side of half time before Palace’s comeback was given a leg-up by a calamitous misunderstanding between Jonas Olsson and Ben Foster.
That gifted Conor Wickham a 48th minute goal and Palace threw caution to the winds to set up a thrilling – and nail biting – second half for The Hawthorns.
In the end, Albion restricted Palace to a stunning cross shot from Wickham with 10 minutes remaining while at the same time squandering some wonderful positions on the counter attack which should have brought more goals.
But the three were enough in the end, leapfrogging Palace in the table and putting the Baggies 11 points clear of the bottom three.
A string of performances were worthy of note, with Dawson and Gareth McAuley outstanding at the back, Claudio Yacob in his best midfield form and Sessegnon and Rondon also impressive. But it was Berahino who stole the man of the match with his performance of the season so far.
ALBION: Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Brunt (Chester 41), Sessegnon (McClean 74), Fletcher, Yacob, Gardner, Berahino, Rondon (Sandro 86).
Subs: Myhill, Anichebe, Lambert, Pritchard.
Bookings: Dawson (16, foul); Chester (78, foul);
CRYSTAL PALACE: Hennessey; Kelly, Dann, Delaney (c), Ward; Zaha, Ledley (Jedinak 80), Cabaye (Gayle 79) Mutch; Wickham, Adebayor (Bolasie HT)
Subs: Speroni, Mariappa, Lee, Chamakh.
Bookings: Adebayor (25, foul); Cabaye (foul 64)
Referee: Jonathon Moss (Yorkshire)
Albion Man of the match: Saido Berahino