COCA-COLA CHAMPIONSHIP: Crystal Palace 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2

Not only did Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Mick McCarthy receive the kind of combative and battling performance he was demanding of his players at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

He also, thanks to impressive long-range strikes by Michael Gray and substitute Kevin Kyle, was able to make the arduous journey home with the three points which may yet give his team's play-off aspirations a perfectly-timed shot in the arm.

Following the miserable FA Cup capitulation at Cardiff only seven days earlier, McCarthy had set his players the bare minimum target of at least competing at Selhurst Park - also, presumably, avoiding a repetition of the recent and costly conceding of a goal inside the first four minutes in three of their previous four fixtures.

With 76 minutes on the clock they had achieved both such ambitions and, while it hadn't been particularly pretty, it was certainly a more solid and determined display underpinned by the Gary Breen and Jody Craddock alliance looking far more assured than at Ninian Park.

Then, with an excellent swish of Gray's left boot, and another from Kyle's right in injury time, a decent away performance was transformed into an excellent one and a potentially crucial Championship victory.

The only downside was what appeared to be concussion suffered by goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey when challenged strongly by Mark Hudson five minutes before time but even his replacement Graham Stack got in on the act with an injury-time save from Paul Ifill.

McCarthy, meanwhile, was delighted with the manner of the performance and in particular the match-winning goals, firsts in Wolves' colours for both delighted scorers.

"I thought we played well, and we've not enjoyed that level of ability or fantastic strikes too often so it was nice to see," he said. "I was really pleased with Michael's all-round performance and it's great when a goal flies in like that.

"As for Kevin I didn't think for one minute that's what he would bring to the club - hitting 30-yard volleys over his shoulder and into the bottom corner. People often think that it's just a case of knocking the ball up to him but he's better than that, he's got ability and a goal like that shows it.

"I was thrilled for him because there were one or too boos around the place last week and all you want when you go to a new club is to try to settle in."

With five changes following the five made last weekend it was also a case of settling in for another different Wolves line-up, a 4-5-1 formation with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake deployed as lone frontman. That served to provide an added solidity in defence while giving the likes of David Edwards and Stephen Elliott license to advance in support of Ebanks-Blake at every opportunity.

Indeed, while it was a match of few chances, Wolves produced the lion's share, Elliott having a shot tipped over by Julian Speroni and Craddock heading inches wide.

Tom Soares and Carl Fletcher were off target for Palace and indeed Hennessey's main work for the afternoon was to block Ifill's cross prompting the corner from which the challenge with Hudson brought an end to his afternoon.

By that point Gray had cut in from the right to despatch a shot into the top corner, and Kyle's encore - latching on to a long ball before firing home - was to follow a minute before time.

Darren Potter almost added further icing to the cake by shooting against the ar in injury time but by then victory was secured, leaving Wolves five points off the top six with a match in hand albeit not a scenario being heavily scrutinised by their manager.

McCarthy said: "We've got another three points but I've not even looked at the table, let's just see where we are in 13 games' time."

Scorers: Gray (76); Kyle (89).
CRYSTAL PALACE (4-5-1): Speroni; Butterfield, Hudson, Lawrence, Hill; Soares (Ifill. 58), Fletcher, Watson, Derry, Hills (Morrison. 58); Kuqi (Scowcroft. 70). Subs: Fonte, Scannell.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (4-5-1): Hennessey (Stack. 87); Collins, Breen, Craddock, Elokobi; Elliott (Foley. 87), Potter, Henry, D Edwards, Gray; Ebanks-Blake (Kyle. 81). Subs: Olofinjana, Eastwood.
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire).
Bookings: Palace - Kuqi, Fletcher (fouls); Wolves - Elokobi (foul)
Attendance: 15, 679.