London: Christian Benteke marked his return from suspension by scoring his first goal of the season as Aston Villa ended their nine-game winless streak with a 1-0 victory away to Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Tuesday.
Victory saw the Birmingham club move above Palace and into 12th place in the table, with Paul Lambert`s side now five points clear of the relegation zone following this success in a low-grade encounter in south London.
Belgian striker Benteke, back following a three-game ban for a red card against Tottenham Hotspur, broke the deadlock in 32nd minute at Selhurst Park when he dispossessed Palace defender Scott Dann some 45 yards out and then surged forward before beating Eagles` goalkeeper Julian Speroni with a shot into the corner.
Victory was Villa`s first since a 1-0 win at Liverpool on September 13.
Defeat left Palace just two points above the bottom three and in danger of being drawn into the relegation dogfight.
Neil Warnock`s side saw plenty of the ball but, frustratingly for the home team, Wilfried Zaha repeatedly failed to find the final pass that would have undone Villa`s suspect defence after making good ground.
The result was all the more disappointing for Palace given their commendable performances in beating Liverpool 3-1 and then drawing 1-1 away to Swansea in their two previous matches.
Instead, they suffered a fifth defeat in eight games after the 23-year-old Benteke, dubbed "one of the best strikers in Europe" by Villa manager Lambert, produced the one real moment of class in the match.
After seeing off Dann, Benteke bore down on the Palace goal, with Eagles defender Brede Hangeland inexplicably backing off from making a challenge.
Benteke then took advantage of the time and space offered by the former Norway captain and duly picked his spot to score just Villa`s eighth league goal this season.
Warnock would have been justified in giving his side a typically frank team-talk at half-time but whatever the veteran manager said at the break appeared to have little effect on the Eagles, who failed to generate a clear chance despite engineering several promising positions.
Villa were not offering much themselves in the midst of Palace`s sustained, but fruitless, spell of possession yet they nearly doubled their lead on the counter-attack.
The visitors saw a break end with Andreas Weimann shooting at Speroni, who blocked with his legs, when a strike either side of the Palace `keeper by the Villa midfielder would surely have made it 2-0.
In the end, the final whistle saw Palace booed off the field by their own fans.