Crystal Palace 1
ONE piece of individual brilliance by Crystal Palace's £5m man, Victor Moses brought to an end Argyle's minor Championship revival.
In rain-soaked conditions reminiscent of those that had seen a previous Home Park game against Barnsley abandoned, teenager Moses scored the game's only goal - a brilliant one - midway through the first half.
Argyle, with successive league wins at Cardiff and against Liverpool's FA Cup conquerors Reading under their belts, matched Palace blow for blow, but could not find the spark that Moses had to get back on terms.
Argyle had, superficially at least, shown no ill effects from the long ole poke to St James' Park for their midweek FA Cup third-round replay.
Despite the Wednesday match-day, the 3-0 defeat, and the 800-mile round trip, all of Paul Mariner's crew passed muster on Friday morning, allowing the head coach to select the same starting 11.
With Jamie Mackie suffering from sinus problems, the unkind legacy of a winter flu bug, Ashley Barnes was again the preferred choice of forward partner for Rory Fallon. Bradley Wright-Phillips, Alan Gow and Joe Mason remained attacking options from the bench.
Palace, playing their first match for a fortnight since knocking Sheffield Wednesday out of the FA Cup at Hillsborough, were so thin on the ground that manager Neil Warnock again did not name a full complement of substitutes.
However, what the Eagles lacked in quantity, they more than made up for in quality, with Moses recalled on the left-side of their midfield in one of two changes to the Sheffield starting line-up.
Moses is apparently valued at £5m - a price-tag which, at the moment, is conveniently unaffected by FA Cup inavailability - and has attracted, or is about to attract, offers from, allegedly, the likes of Barcelona, Manchester City and...ahem, Nottingham Forest.
Palace's other change saw Lee Hills drafted into the defence in place of Jose Fonte, who has joined ambitious League One side Southampton for a reported £1.2m.
It might be the ravaged nature of the Home Park surface, or the Pilgrims' parlous position, or the aggressive enthusiasm emanating from the home dug-out, but matches at Home Park tend to resemble cup-ties these days (notwithstanding the fact that the last one was a cup-tie, of course).
An end-to-end break by Chris Clark ended with a sublime cross that Clint Hill did well to head away with Fallon lurking, while, at the other end, some all-hands-to-the-pumps defending saw Kári Árnason, Carl Fletcher and Chris Barker deny Moses.
It did not take long for Moses to part the Greens' defence, however, and he did so with a piece of skill that suggests that Nottingham Forest can go whistle.
Hills' punt forward from the left was little more than in the 'hopeful ' category but the ball bounced on a rough patch in the Pilgrims' penalty area to take it away from Barker and towards Moses, who a pulled the Cryuff Turn out of his locker to wrong-foot the entire Argyle defence before firing home.
After a lull while the Pilgrims raised their chins from their bootstraps, the cut and thrust cup-tie atmosphere again came to the fore.
This was helped by plenty of rain and more than a few choice tackles and committed challenges that raised the temperature and saw Moses and Claude Davis booked. Shaun Derry later followed for a cruncher on Clark. And that is probably the least surprising sentence you will read today.
While most of the thrust was coming from Argyle, the cut seemed to be with Palace, who nearly doubled their lead when Darren Ambrose picked up Gary Sawyer's imprecise clearance and tried to dink a long-range shot over Romain Larrieu.
However, Le Keeper pedalled backwards and sprang up to tip the shot over his crossbar.
Mariner introduced Alan Gow after an interval during which the rain continued to teem down, leaving the pock-marked surface dotted with puddles.
The conditions, and Gow's ability to stand up on a skating-rink of a pitch, added to a zesty match. Davis was lucky to stay on after upending Judge, and Neil Danns was booked for bringing down the same Argyle player.
Ambrose extended Larrieu with a low shot from distance that was accompanied by a plume of spray, as the weather continued to make a mess of Colin Wheatcroft's green acre. It was not quite Barnsley standards, but it was not far off.
And it got worse. Clearly (or, rather, unclearly, given the worsening elements) skill was now becoming a rare commodity, and it was no surprise to see Palace's prized asset Moses withdrawn.
There was the odd touch here and there, though, with Fallon showing a deft touch for a man of his size by back-heeling a pass that saw Judge zip a shot across the face of Julian Speroni's goal.
However, chances at either end were few and far between, with most of the rest of the game bogged down, literally (Jamie Redknapp, note), in the rain-soaked middle of the pitch.
Argyle (4-4-2): 1 Romain Larrieu; 2 Karl Duguid, 15 Chris Barker, 11 Kári Árnason, 18 Gary Sawyer; 25 Alan Judge, 20 Luke Summerfield (16 David McNamee 58), 4 Carl Fletcher (capt, 31 Yoann Folly 70), 6 Chris Clark; 14 Rory Fallon, 24 Ashley Barnes (26 Alan Gow half-time). Substitutes (not used): 10 Bradley Wright-Phillips, 17 Craig Noone, 27 Lloyd Saxton (gk), 32 Joe Mason.
Booked: Sawyer 45.
Crystal Palace (4-5-1): 1 Julian Speroni; 2 Nathaniel Clyne, 24 Claude Davis, 3 Clint Hill, 15 Lee Hills; 11 Darren Ambrose (20 Danny Butterfield 80), 22 Johannes Ertl, 4 Shaun Derry, 8 Neil Danns, 11 Victor Moses (18 Calvin Andrew 67); 19 Alan Lee (33 Alassane N'Diaye 72). Substitutes (not used): 17 Matt Lawrence, 21 Kieran Djilali.
Booked: Davis 19, Moses 29, Derry 40, Danns 51, Hills 87.
Referee: Tony Bates (Staffordshire).
Attendance: 9,318 (612 away).