|Magic Marlon kept Forest’s bid for a play-off place on track with a stunning solo goal as Forest ran out 2 – 1 winners against Crystal Palace this evening.
Forest got off to a perfect start on four minutes, when John Thompson flicked-on a poor corner from Jim Brennan.
Michael Dawson, showing signs that he might have a second career as a striker, pounced and drilled the ball low into the net.
Palace were showing no signs of a hangover from their midweek FA Cup victory over Liverpool though, and despite the early goal from Forest, they got stuck in and started to put the Reds under pressure.
Julian Gray managed to slip ex-Forest striker Dougie Freedman through, but he scuffed his shot.
Another chance fell to the lively Andrew Johnson, who after finding some space went one-on-one with Darren Ward but it was a tame effort.
Forest were getting their share of chances as well and Andy Reid came close with a brave header which went too high.
Then at the other end, Ward pulled off a brilliant save pushing Shaun Derry’s header against the crossbar.
Palace must have sensed they were in with a chance, and after the break, they started the brighter team, Dele Adebola coming close to the equalizer when he ran from the halfway line before blasting his shot just wide of the post.
Jon Olav Hjelde then blasted a shot from 40 yards out which fizzed just wide of the Palace goal.
What Forest needed was the comfort-factor of a second goal and it came on the hour-mark with a superb solo effort from Marlon Harewood.
Harewood received the ball on the right touchline with his back to goal. He then flicked the ball backwards to nutmeg Tony Popovic, before running around him to get the ball back. He continued his run straight at Kit Symons before skipping around him as well, and then, from the tightest of angles he blasted his shot, which somehow squeezed between Cedric Berthelin and the near post.
Then with only 16 minutes left Forest handed the Eagles a lifeline, when Michael Dawson tripped Andy Johnson in the penalty area. Dawson’s tackle was crude to say the least. And having been booked in the first half I was relieved to see Dawson stay on the pitch - any other referee would have shown him a yellow for the offence.
Johnson took the penalty himself and made no mistake.
Thankfully, there were no more slip-ups and Forest held on to take all three points and move within one point of Sheffield United in third spot.
Boss Paul Hart was pleased with the 'solid team performance', saying: "It was probably not one of our more fluid performances but showed a lot of qualities and a will to win.
"I was very pleased because Palace are a good side and are very difficult to play against.
"They threw everything at us and at the end of the match I think they had more forwards on the field than we have at the club!
"But I knew before the game that the players were up for the game and they showed a lot of commitment in making sure they got the three points."
Trevor Francis also praised Forest although he felt Dawson should have been sent off in the incident that brought Palace a late penalty.
Francis said: "Forest are a very good side and although I can't see them catching the top two in the Division they should certainly make the play-offs.
"They have made good progress and as a former Forest player I am very pleased to see that.
"Between us I thought we produced a very good advert for First Division football."