City were knocked off the top of the npower Championship table as Crystal Palace ended their six-game winning streak at King Power Stadium with an impressive away performance.
First-half goals from centre-backs Damien Delaney and Peter Ramage were enough for the Eagles to become the first side to take anything away from the home of the Foxes this term, as the visitors shrugged off the departure of manager Dougie Freedman to extend their unbeaten run to 12 games.
Solid in defence, creative in attack and supremely organised throughout, Palace, under the guidance of caretaker boss Lennie Lawrence, fully merited their victory, but were given a fright late-on when Andy King’s late header set up a nervy finale.
After an impressive run of seven wins in nine games that pushed them right into the automatic promotion places, City just didn’t look their normal effervescent selves and struggled to produce the flowing football that has been their trademark in recent weeks.
Palace, by contrast, were on the front foot immediately, utilising the pace and trickery of Wilfried Zaha in attack alongside the power and strength of Glenn Murray.
Palace ‘keeper Julian Speroni saved well from both David Nugent and Anthony Knockaert in the opening stages, while Andy King saw a header from a Knockaert corner drop just over the bar.
But Palace looked a bit threat – going close through Murray and Jonathan Parr before striking twice in five minutes midway through the half.
Delaney put them in front with a thumping finish on 23 minutes after Kasper Schmeichel, making a fine catch from Owen Garvan’s corner, collided with Zak Whitbread before the ball broke loose.
And five minutes later, another corner, this time from Yannick Bolasie, was headed home by Ramage at close-quarters.
Nigel Pearson made a tactical change, bringing Matty James on to combat Palace’s effective 4-3-3 formation, and his side improved before the break. Nugent saw an effort cleared off the line by Garvan, before King was frustrated by the athleticism of Speroni.
In need of an early goal in the second half, the hosts threw everything forward, going close through a Jamie Vardy header but generally frustrated by their resolute visitors.
On the break, Palace looked a menace through the pace of Zaha, while the outstanding Mile Jedinak broke down City advances in midfield with a muscular display.
To their credit, the hosts kept plugging away and had two big shouts for penalties in the final 20 minutes as Nugent was first brought down in a crowd by Delaney, then saw his header suspiciously cleared by the arm of Garvan on the line.
But as a goal, and decisions, continued to elude them, the frustration grew in the home ranks as Palace’s resolve to hang onto their lead strengthened.
It was eventually punctured by King, whose intelligent header from Paul Konchesky’s left-wing cross gave the Foxes a minute or so to save themselves.
But despite a hairy final few moments for the visitors, they closed out the win their efforts probably deserved.
City (4-4-2): Schmeichel; De Laet, Morgan (c), Whitbread, Konchesky; Knockaert (Schlupp 77), Drinkwater (Marshall 63, King, Dyer (James 32); Nugent, Vardy.
Unused subs: Logan, Waghorn, Moore, Futacs
Goals: King 90+2
Booked: Vardy, De Laet
Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Speroni; Ward, Ramage, Delaney, Parr; Dikgacoi, Garvan, Jedinak (c); Zaha (Moxey 90), Murray (Wilbraham 89), Bolasie.
Unused subs: Blake, Easter, O’Keefe, Moritz, Price.
Goals: Delaney 23, Ramage 28
Attendance: 23,646 (2,056 away)
Referee: Andy Haines (Tyne & Wear)