Bristol City 2-1 Crystal Palace (AET - Bristol City win 4-2 on aggregate)

AN EXTRA-TIME collapse from Crystal Palace sunk the Eagles' promotion hopes at Ashton Gate last night.

Ben Watson appeared to have given Neil Warnock's side a crucial lifeline when his first half header made it 2-2 on aggregate.

But Watson's second half penalty miss handed the Robins a get out of jail card and they took full advantage in extra-time to book their place in the play-off final with two decisive strikes.

Crystal Palace had a lucky escape when Bristol City's first attack of the game in the opening minute almost produced a goal for the hosts.

Goalkeeper Julian Speroni failed to deal with a ball into the area and Marvin Elliott's goalbound header was cleared off the line by Mark Hudson.

Lee Trundle headed straight at Speroni from close range on seven minutes as the Robins continued to enjoy the better of the early exchanges.

Scott Sinclair had a penalty claim waved away by referee Howard Webb after going to ground under a challenge from two City defenders in the 13th minute as the Eagles finally launched a forward move.

Shaun Derry tried his luck from long range with an ambitious volley from 20 yards moments later, but his effort was easily dealt with by Adriano Basso.

Matt Lawrence's crucial deflection meant Nick Carle's 18th minute shot from the right of the area went behind for a corner after the Australian had broken clear of his marker.

Clinton Morrison had an ambitious volley comfortably saved on 21 minutes and it was perhaps an indication of Bristol's dominance that this was the first meaningful contribution from Palace's leading scorer.

However, it was the visitors who grabbed an unlikely lead three minutes later.

A cross from the right saw Basso come out in an attempt to punch the danger away.

He was beaten to it by Jamie McCombe, but the City defender's clearance landed straight on the head of Watson, who spotted Basso off his line and the Palace midfield ace headed home from just outside the area.

The goal lifted the visiting supporters and it was Palace who had the next attempt of note 10 minutes later when Sinclair produced a shot from 25-yards which sailed wide.

McCombe was unfortunate not to draw the home side level in the 38th minute when his header from a free-kick sailed agonisingly over Speroni's bar.

Clint Hill was booked for a clumsy two-footed challenge on Michael McIndoe shortly before the break and the reaction of Bristol City coach Keith Millen saw him sent to the stands after an exchange of words with Morrison, who was also booked for his comments.

The free-kick which resulted almost produced an equaliser, but Elliott's header was off-target and sailed wide of the post and Palace went in at the interval in front.

Speroni got a crucial touch to palm away Elliott's 48th minute header from a corner as Bristol City attempted to restore their advantage early in the second half.

The home side forced the pace at the start of the second period, but the introduction of Jose Fonte for Lawrence at the midway point gave the Palace defence a much more solid look and they dealt comfortably with everything Bristol threw at them.

Derry went on a run and unleashed a shot from the edge of the area on 58 minutes as a superb tackle by Hill on Dele Adebola in the 66th minute denied the Bristol City man a certain shot on goal, while Watson clearly fancied his chances of a second from a free-kick moments later but his attempt was easily saved.

The game swung in Palace's favour in the 72nd minute when Tom Soares was upended in the box by Elliott and Palace were awarded a penalty.

Watson stepped forward to take the spot kick, but he was unable to repeat Saturday's heroics when he briefly drew his side level and the midfielder's effort from 12-yards cannoned back off the post.

Sean Scannell came agonisingly close to winning it two minutes from time, but his shot from 18 yards took a deflection for a corner.

The corner came to nothing and Palace were almost instantly punished when Trundle broke clear and fired in an effort from outside the area which hit the bar with Speroni beaten.

It was the final attacking piece of action in normal time and the tension was extended for both sides when this intriguing clash headed to extra-time.

Adebola somehow saw an effort scrambled away by the Palace defence in the third minute as the hosts sensed this was the time to make home advantage count.

Sinclair's inviting cross three minutes later failed to find a Palace colleague with four Eagles players seemingly posed to make a connection with it.

Morrison played the ball into Watson's path in the 10th minute of added time, but he blazed his shot over from 20 yards.

There was heartbreak for Palace in the 103rd minute when Trundle unleashed a curling strike from just outside the area to restore parity on the night and give Bristol a crucial aggregate advantage.

Neil Warnock introduced Victor Moses for Derry at the midway point with the Eagles chief knowing his side had to launch an all out attack to keep the Premiership dream alive.

Adebola almost put the outcome beyond doubt two minutes into the second period of extra-time, but his close range strike went straight to Speroni.

Moments later, a free-kick 25-yards out was laid invitingly into the path of McIndoe and he blasted home an unstoppable shot beyond the Palace keeper.

Fonte had Basso at full stretch four minutes from the end but by then the outcome was never really in doubt and Warnock's battlers probably already knew another campaign in the Championship awaited.

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Butterfield, Hudson, Lawrence (Fonte 46), Hill, Soares, Watson, Derry (Moses 106), Scannell, Sinclair (Ifill 111), Morrison. Subs not used: Craig, Fletcher. Att: 18,842