Odsonne Edouard spoiled Sheffield United’s return to the Premier League to give Crystal Palace a winning start to life after Wilfried Zaha.
This season is the first since 2013-14 where the Eagles will be without Zaha after their talismanic forward’s departure in the summer.
But Edouard turned in Jordan Ayew’s cross just after half-time.
And although debutant William Osula went close for United, Palace had chances to make the win more emphatic.
The goal came when Ayew ran at Ben Osborn on Palace’s right wing before delivering a low cross for Edouard to tap in from close range.
The French striker, 25, should have claimed a second when he sent a tame header straight at Wes Foderingham, who also denied Ayew and Joachim Andersen late on.
But the Eagles had done enough to give Roy Hodgson, who celebrated his 76th birthday three days ago, a winning start to his 41st season as a manager – in his 1,242nd game as boss.
Edouard scored just five league goals last season, with Saturday’s goal just his third goal in 24 league games for Palace.
“Odsonne’s been excellent in pre-season,” said Hodgson. “I don’t think we saw the best of him last season. In the 10 games I had at the end of the season we always thought the quality was there.
“What he’s done for us in pre-season and today, that’s what he’s got. That’s in his locker and it’s really good to see him bringing that out.
“I hope today’s game, not just the goal but his all-round play, will improve his confidence because if we can get him playing at that level week after week, I think we can be a handful for a lot of teams.”
Palace trio relish greater attacking role
Although Palace failed to create any clear-cut chances in the first half, Edouard pounced early in the second before Foderingham kept United in the game.
Hodgson made the Eagles more attacking after succeeding Patrick Vieira in March and since Zaha’s departure has brought in Brazilian forward Matheus Franca.
The 19-year-old was injured for the season opener, along with France Under-21 winger Michael Olise, but the form of Edouard, Ayew and new England international Eberechi Eze suggested they will relish having greater responsibility in the absence of Zaha.
United are also rebuilding having sold two key players – Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge – since being last season’s Championship runners-up.
After Ndiaye’s departure, manager Paul Heckingbottom said his squad was “a long way off”, but on the eve of the new campaign he said the focus was “going forward and attacking this season”, adding that the Blades “can surprise a lot of people”.
A spate of injuries also meant he started two 20-year-old forwards – Osula and summer signing Benie Traore.
Osula almost made a dream start to his full United debut as his curling shot deflected narrowly wide and the young Dane fired into the side-netting on the break in the second half, but otherwise the hosts created little.
But otherwise Palace, who kept Hodgson at the helm after the veteran boss came in to steady the ship last season, dominated for most of the contest.
Ayew had a goal disallowed for offside while Edouard and Cheick Doucoure tested Foderingham, before Edouard made the breakthrough.
“We knew we’d be up against it, but I’m proud of the players and proud of the effort,” said Heckingbottom.
“Palace deserve the win but there’s nothing that scares us in this league, we just know we’ve got to get better from here on in.”