Albion 0 Crystal Palace 1

Let’s get a couple of things straight from the start.

Graham Potter did not shrug this defeat off. And, yes, he ‘got’ what it meant to Albion fans.

Both from the perspective of the derby and the situation in the league table.

Those were suggestions flying around from fans via social and more old-fashioned media in the bitter immediate aftermath of this numbing defeat.

That is what happens when emotions run high.

These are testing times. We all know how hard Albion as a club fought to be where they are now.

No one wants to see that elite status slip away.

Albion preserved their top-flight place last season partly through taking six points against Crystal Palace.

This time, their departing fans were serenaded by a chorus of “going down, going down” from the away end at the Amex.

Derby wins are special and Premier League status is a reason for pride.

The former should have been secured here and the second protected.

If Albion cannot take opportunities and win games such as this, there is every reason for worry.

Equally, if they get that last bit right in both boxes, they will be okay. But we keep saying it.

Potter thought Albion were the better side and he was right.

He said his players gave all they could in terms of effort. No arguments on that, either.

If anything, those facts made defeat all the more maddening.

There seemingly remains a conviction in-house that they will pull through.

But we would all feel a bit better about their chances had this bonus day of February been seized upon as a chance to score a first win of 2020.

Potter’s men need to find a way to tip the verdict in their favour when games are finely balanced.

It has happened just twice this season, versus Everton and Arsenal. Four of their six wins have been very comprehensive – a pair of 3-0s and a couple of 2-0s which were going on three or four When a match looks like it might go one of two or three ways as it develops, chances are it will not end happily for the Seagulls.

They have ended with less than they arguably deserved too often, many of them in the first half of the season.

Lately it had been more a case of wringing points out of games with effort and resilience.

But here opportunity beckoned and the failure to make the most of it hurt.

Because it was Palace – but not only because it was Palace.

No Premier League game is easy but Albion had their old foe in a place where they wanted them.

Not a great side but a side lacking the desperate need for a win after their success over Newcastle.

Christian Benteke let the hosts off the hook with a bad miscue when sent clear early on.

From then, Albion had the better of the game and the chances to take control There was good play, hard work – but poor execution at key moments, a lack of composure and some misfortune. And then the sucker punch when Jordan Ayew produced a finish which did not need a slow-motion replay as it bounced gently inside the far post via Maty Ryan’s touch.

Potter said: “It is disappointing when we have lost and lost narrowly and lost when we have played quite well.

“That’s life sometimes. We need to accept it and not feel sorry for ourselves.

“We have to take the fight, we have to show our quality.”

Albion’s 24 goal attempts was apparently the most they have managed in a Premier League match.

But Potter said: “The most important stat is the one which says how many go in the back of the net. That is where we fell short “Sometimes luck is a commodity you need and we didn’t have too much of that.

“Lewis Dunk’s header has beaten everybody but has hit Neal Maupay straight in the face.

“Solly March’s is a good chance.

“We have to just keep the focus on the positives, focus on what we have done well.

“We have to keep working and, hopefully, we turn that luck and those margins in our favour.”

Three of those goal attempts were of major significance.

There was the shot March dragged wide of the near post after a scintillating move by Leandro Trossard and Maupay set him up. That was a great chance.

There was the Dunk header from a corner which was probably going into the net until it hit Maupay.

And there was the hurried Maupay blast, after the ball bounced kindly to him, which arrowed straight into the midriff of a startled but relieved Vicente Guaita.

Maybe Ayew had a bit of fortune too in the way his winner bounced in despite the keeper’s touch after some really good work by Benteke to create the chance.

Wilfried Zaha missed an open goal deep into added time although it did not matter by that time.

In any case, one wonders how VAR-proof it would have been, from the point of view a foul on halfway.

Zaha not scoring and Marcos Alonso hitting a late equaliser for Chelsea at Bournemouth were minor consolations for Albion’s fans.

But West Ham’s win over Southampton did them no good and Watford’s defeat of Liverpool topped off the day. Not that it should be about favours from elsewhere.

Albion need to take care of themselves. They know that.

Wins over Palace in recent years have, by coincidence or not, been followed by poor runs of results.

Almost like the guard drops slightly – and it only needs to be slightly in this league.

If Saturday’s despair can lead to a more positive response – backs to wall, siege mentality – starting at Wolves on Saturday, then that could be a silver lining to a huge cloud.

One hopes that is not clutching at straws.