Cardiff City booked their place in the Championship play-offs after coming from behind at Crystal Palace.

Palace striker Wilfried Zaha gave the hosts a first half lead when he tucked home Darren Ambrose's defence-splitting through ball.

But Peter Whittingham curled in a free-kick to draw Cardiff level shortly after the restart.

And Don Cowie ensured his side would finish sixth in the table when he lashed in Mark Hudson's flick-on.

Mackay delight at play-off place

Cardiff knew a win at Selhurst Park would guarantee a play-off place but were also aware that defeat, coupled with a Middlesbrough victory at Watford, would see the Bluebirds slip out of the top six.

The visitors started brightly and almost took the lead three minutes in when Lewis Price, playing in goal in place of the injured Julian Speroni, denied Joe Mason at close range after initially spilling Liam Lawrence's 20-yard shot.

Play-off dates

Semi-finals first leg

3 May: Cardiff v West Ham (1945 BST)

4 May: Blackpool v Birmingham (1945)

Semi-finals second leg

7 May: West Ham v Cardiff (1630)

9 May: Birmingham v Blackpool (1945)

The save seemed to jolt Palace into life and they soon took the lead when Zaha played the ball to Ambrose before racing onto the midfielder's fine through pass to finish under the advancing David Marshall from the edge of the Cardiff penalty area.

Cardiff supporters remained in fine voice at the interval, despite their obvious nerves, and they were soon celebrating when top-scorer Peter Whittingham curled home a free-kick from the narrowest of angles eight minutes into the second half for his 13th of the season.

The goal galvanised Cardiff's play and they took the lead when captain Mark Hudson flicked-on Aron Gunnarsson's long throw and Don Cowie turned in the box to fire home into the bottom corner of the Palace net.

News soon filtered down from the terraces that Watford were winning 2-1 against Middlesbrough and as the final whistle blew and Cardiff's play-off place was confirmed, Cowie and Whittingham led the celebrations with the jubilant Bluebirds supporters.

Crystal Palace manager Dougie Freedman:

"I had a plan at the beginning of the season and the plan was to take the club up to the next level in terms of not fighting relegation battles.

"We did that 10 games ago and that gave me the opportunity to blood one or two young players and get more experience for them.

"In the middle of that we went on a fantastic cup run which gave a lot of exposure to the club for the right reasons."

Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay:

"We are 10 games unbeaten going into the play-offs so there is real momentum there.

"I have been in the semi-final situation as a player with West Ham, Norwich and Watford. It is about staying calm and having a game plan."

Lineup, Bookings (4) & Substitutions (5)

Crystal Palace

  • 34 Price
  • 05 McCarthy
  • 21 Moxey
  • 26 Parsons Booked
  • 04 Parr
  • 07 Ambrose (De Silva - 73' )
  • 10 Garvan Booked
  • 28 O'Keefe
  • 11 Scannell (Pedroza - 54' )
  • 16 Zaha
  • 17 Murray

Substitutes

  • 40 Fitzsimons
  • 22 Wynter
  • 36 De Silva
  • 25 Pedroza
  • 27 Sekajja

Cardiff City

  • 01 Marshall
  • 02 McNaughton (Blake - 72' )
  • 03 Taylor
  • 05 Hudson
  • 25 Turner
  • 07 Whittingham
  • 08 Cowie
  • 13 Lawrence
  • 17 Gunnarsson Booked
  • 09 Miller Booked (Gestede - 79' )
  • 20 Mason (Earnshaw - 90' )

Substitutes

  • 22 Heaton
  • 23 Blake
  • 37 McPhail
  • 10 Earnshaw
  • 15 Gestede
Ref: Mason
Att: 15,510

Match Stats

Shots

5 18

On target

2 11

Corners

1 3

Fouls

8 13

Live Text Commentary

90:00 +3:10 Full time

Full Time The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.

90:00 +2:39

Liam Lawrence takes a shot. Save by Lewis Price.

90:00 +1:41

Antonio Pedroza is ruled offside. David Marshall restarts play with the free kick.

89:44

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Aron Gunnarsson by Owen Garvan. Direct free kick taken by Mark Hudson.

89:19 Substitution

Substitution (Cardiff) makes a substitution, with Robert Earnshaw coming on for Joe Mason.

87:35

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Antonio Pedroza by Mark Hudson. Free kick taken by Owen Garvan.

86:12

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Glenn Murray by Darcy Blake. Owen Garvan delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from left channel.

85:28

The assistant referee signals for offside against Glenn Murray. David Marshall takes the indirect free kick.

84:54

Joe Mason gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Dean Moxey. Patrick McCarthy takes the free kick.

83:14

Foul by Andrew Taylor on Wilfried Zaha, free kick awarded. Patrick McCarthy takes the free kick.

78:32 Substitution

Substitution Rudy Gestede comes on in place of Kenny Miller.

76:40

Corner taken by Owen Garvan, clearance by Ben Turner.

73:52

Unfair challenge on Glenn Murray by Mark Hudson results in a free kick. Owen Garvan crosses the ball from the free kick left-footed from right channel, save by David Marshall.

73:29

The ball is sent over by Kenny Miller.

72:17 Substitution

Substitution Kyle De Silva on for Darren Ambrose.

71:51 Substitution

Substitution Darcy Blake replaces Kevin McNaughton.

68:48

Joe Mason takes a shot. Lewis Price makes a comfortable save.

67:07

Glenn Murray concedes a free kick for a foul on Mark Hudson. David Marshall takes the free kick.

66:29

Shot from just outside the box by Wilfried Zaha misses to the left of the goal.

63:16

Darren Ambrose delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from right wing, clearance made by Peter Whittingham.

63:16 Booking

Booking Aron Gunnarsson booked for unsporting behaviour.

63:07

Aron Gunnarsson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Glenn Murray.

61:21

Assist by Mark Hudson.

61:21 Goal scored

Goal! - Don Cowie - C Palace 1 - 2 Cardiff Don Cowie scores a goal from just outside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Crystal Palace 1-2 Cardiff.

58:29

Free kick awarded for a foul by Andrew Taylor on Antonio Pedroza. Darren Ambrose crosses the ball from the free kick right-footed from right channel, clearance made by Andrew Taylor.

57:43

The referee blows for offside against Glenn Murray. Free kick taken by David Marshall.

56:57

Liam Lawrence gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Matthew Parsons. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Darren Ambrose from left wing, clearance by Mark Hudson.

55:42

Liam Lawrence takes a shot. Lewis Price makes a save.

54:53

The offside flag is raised against Antonio Pedroza. Free kick taken by David Marshall.

53:55 Substitution

Substitution Antonio Pedroza joins the action as a substitute, replacing Sean Scannell.

53:34

Headed effort from inside the penalty area by Kenny Miller misses to the right of the target.

52:23

Liam Lawrence provided the assist for the goal.

52:23 Goal scored

Goal! - Peter Whittingham - C Palace 1 - 1 Cardiff Free kick scored by Peter Whittingham from outside the box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Crystal Palace 1-1 Cardiff.

51:06 Booking

Booking Booking for Matthew Parsons for unsporting behaviour.

50:57

Matthew Parsons concedes a free kick for a foul on Liam Lawrence.

49:42

Free kick taken by Lewis Price.

49:42 Booking

Booking Caution for Kenny Miller.

49:01

Kenny Miller challenges Matthew Parsons unfairly and gives away a free kick.

45:55

Kenny Miller has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the target.

45:01

The referee starts the second half.

45:00 +1:08 Half time

Half Time The ref blows to signal half-time.

44:44

Direct effort from the free kick comes in from Liam Lawrence, Lewis Price makes a comfortable save.

44:44 Booking

Booking Owen Garvan goes into the book for unsporting behaviour.

44:27

Joe Mason fouled by Owen Garvan, the ref awards a free kick.

43:10

Owen Garvan concedes a free kick for a foul on Joe Mason. Liam Lawrence takes the direct free kick.

41:23

Shot from just outside the box by Kenny Miller misses to the right of the goal.

40:02

Mark Hudson takes a shot. Save by Lewis Price.

39:42

Sean Scannell concedes a free kick for a foul on Liam Lawrence. Peter Whittingham restarts play with the free kick.

37:50

Joe Mason has an effort at goal from just outside the penalty box which goes wide of the left-hand post.

36:47

Corner taken left-footed by Peter Whittingham from the left by-line, Glenn Murray manages to make a clearance.

35:37

Joe Mason takes a shot. Comfortable save by Lewis Price.

35:27

The referee blows for offside. Free kick taken by David Marshall.

34:27

Shot from long distance by Peter Whittingham misses to the right of the goal.

31:14

The referee blows for offside against Jonathan Parr. David Marshall takes the indirect free kick.

30:05

Shot from long range by Liam Lawrence goes wide of the left-hand upright.

27:47

Glenn Murray takes a shot. David Marshall makes a save.

27:00

Joe Mason takes a shot. Save by Lewis Price.

25:54

The referee blows for offside against Joe Mason. Lewis Price takes the indirect free kick.

24:34

Free kick awarded for a foul by Mark Hudson on Glenn Murray. Matthew Parsons takes the direct free kick.

23:00

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Aron Gunnarsson by Stuart O'Keefe. Free kick crossed left-footed by Peter Whittingham.

18:53

Free kick awarded for a foul by Aron Gunnarsson on Wilfried Zaha. Darren Ambrose shoots direct from the free kick.

16:48

Darren Ambrose takes a shot from long range which goes wide of the right-hand upright.

16:33

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Glenn Murray by Mark Hudson. Owen Garvan takes the free kick.

13:54

Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Peter Whittingham played to the near post, Glenn Murray manages to make a clearance.

12:22

Assist on the goal came from Darren Ambrose.

12:22 Goal scored

Goal! - Wilfried Zaha - C Palace 1 - 0 Cardiff Wilfried Zaha grabs a goal from the edge of the penalty box low into the middle of the goal. Crystal Palace 1-0 Cardiff.

8:14

Stuart O'Keefe gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Kenny Miller. Andrew Taylor restarts play with the free kick.

5:19

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Glenn Murray by Mark Hudson. Glenn Murray restarts play with the free kick.

4:21

Aron Gunnarsson produces a right-footed effort from long distance that goes harmlessly over the bar.

3:11

Liam Lawrence takes a shot. Save made by Lewis Price.

2:40

Inswinging corner taken by Liam Lawrence from the left by-line played to the near post, clearance by Darren Ambrose.

2:23

Joe Mason takes a shot. Save by Lewis Price.

0:00

The match has kicked off.

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