Raw and unorthodox, yet supremely talented, his final act as a Palace player made some leaving present bearing in mind the riches that are attached to this game.
Zaha had tormented Watford's defenders with a panache that reaffirmed why Manchester United have already spent £15m to recruit him for next season. He was the outstanding player on the pitch and it was his driving run, always looking to attack the nearest defender, that forced the foul from Marco Cassetti that gave Kevin Phillips his penalty at the end of the first period of extra time.
Phillips, two months short of his 40th birthday, scored the spot-kick in the manner of someone immune to the pressures of the business, and Palace withheld some desperate late pressure to ensure their eight-year spell outside the top division is now over.
It was a nerve-shredding finale featuring a brilliant goal-line clearance from Joel Ward to head out a curling effort from Fernando Forestieri but this was Watford's only spell in the entire match when they had threatened the opposition goal with any real danger.
Their passing game lacked penetration and they were also hampered by the injury that meant Matej Vydra, their leading scorer, hobbled through much of the first half and was replaced by Alex Geijo at the interval.
Vydra's 22 goals have played such a significant part in them challenging Cardiff and Hull for the automatic promotion places and his early departure was always going to be a considerable setback.
It does not fully explain, however, why they were a poor second-best to the team that finished seven points behind them in the Championship.
A delighted Zaha said: "I'm exhausted and speechless and I don't even know what to say. It's my dream come true and this is all I wanted.
"To leave Palace now, knowing they're in the Premier League, that's all I wanted."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © OliverN5