Yannick Bolasie scored a hat-trick, becoming the first Palace player in Premier League history to achieve the feat, with Glenn Murray getting the other as the visitors plunged the Black Cats back into the Premier League relegation mire.
Connor Wickham scored a late consolation but few Sunderland fans had stayed around to see it after the Eagles blew their side away in the opening stages of the second period.
Firstly, Murray continued his fine goalscoring form with a thumping header at the far post, his sixth goal in as many games. He had initially flicked on a long ball before darting to the far post, arriving just in time to convert Bolasie’s deflected shot.
Two minutes later and Bolasie was on the scoresheet himself, another long ball was flicked on by Murray and the winger ran clear to stab past Pantilimon in the Sunderland goal.
No sooner had the away supporters settled down from that and they were celebrating again as Bolasie got his second with a delicate lob over Pantilimon. Once again a long ball undid the hosts. They allowed it to bounce and Bolasie stole in.
His hat-trick came just after the hour. Murray made it as he bullied John O’Shea off the ball before squaring to Bolasie. The DR Congo international went past Pantilimon, stumbled and then swept the ball into the empty net as two Sunderland defenders desperately attempted to get the ball clear.
It came after a fairly even first half in which Sunderland started brightly with Jermain Defoe heavily involved as they pressed for an early goal.
Off the ball Dick Advocaat’s side were impressive in their pressing and harrying of Palace who struggled to get a foothold in the game.
However, they slowly grew into the game with Bolasie and Jason Puncheon, in particular, coming to the fore.
The away side may even have had a man advantage after Jack Rodwell was lucky to escape a red card for a lunging tackle on James McArthur. Alan Pardew was incensed on the touchline but referee Anthony Taylor judged it to be worthy of only a booking.
From that point on the game became consumed by niggling tackles and the game lost the flow of the early stages. With Palace having started to gain the upper hand that suited Sunderland.
Chances were few and far between but Bolasie delivered two very dangerous low crosses into the Sunderland box that required Lee Cattermole to mop up and at the other end Scott Dann had to be alert to cut out Billy Jones’ cross after good work from Connor Wickham saw him receive the ball in space down the right.
Soccer Saturday verdict – Paul Merson
“First half there was nothing in it. Rodwell should have been sent off; it wasn’t the best of tackles and when you see it in a replay you think ‘yeah, he should have gone’. But the ref only gets one look at it.
“But second half, from the 48th minute to the 53rd it was 3-0. The worrying thing for me is when Sunderland go, they go. They’ve got no body on the pitch who goes ‘we’re 1-0 down, ride it out for 10 minutes and we’ll get a point’. They completely go, make the game open.
“Palace played in the Brazil kit and they were unbelievable. Sunderland played into their hands and Palace were so quick on the break. Bolasie, a few years ago I thought ‘stop doing tricks, beat players’ and he does that now. A hat-trick in the Premier League for a winger is phenomenal.
“Sunderland didn’t give up – Wickham got a consolation. But Palace were different class.”
Sunderland: Pantilimon (5); Jones (5), Vergini (4), O’Shea (4), Van Aanholt (6); Rodwell (5), Cattermole (5), Gomez (5); Defoe (5), Fletcher (5), Wickham (6).
Subs: Johnson (5), Bridcutt (5).
Crystal Palace: Speroni (6); Ward (7), Dann (7), Delaney (7), Souare (5); McArthur (7), Jedinak (6); Zaha (7), Puncheon (7), Bolasie (9); Murray (8).
Subs: Kelly (7), Sanogo (5), Ledley (6).
Man of the match: Yannick Bolasie