Wilfried Zaha grabbed the only goal of the game as the Saddlers, with new boss Matt Taylor taking charge for the first time, were edged out by a strong visiting team.
The first crowd at the Banks’s Stadium since the outbreak of the pandemic witnessed a commendable performance from the League Two hosts, who almost grabbed a draw late on when Kieran Phillips hit the bar late on.
This was an afternoon of new beginnings with Palace also having a new boss in the dugout in the shape of Patrick Vieira.
Walsall goalkeeper Carl Rushworth, one of seven summer signings named in the home XI by Taylor, did not have to wait long for his first action, beating away Zaha’s fourth minute shot.
Defender Hayden White then showed impressive composure to snuff out danger and eventually earn a goal kick after Zaha, having broken into the box, tried to turn him one way and then the other.
After Jordan Ayew had thumped a shot over the bar, Zaha was again denied by Rushworth, the keeper flinging himself to his right to tip a shot which was destined for the bottom corner round the post.
Zaha would not be denied, however, four minutes from the break as he finally fired Palace into the lead. The Nigeria international turned toward goal 30 yards out and exchanged passes with Rob Street before sliding a right-footed finish under Rushworth.
The goalkeeper was replaced by Jack Rose in one of two half-time changes for the Saddlers, who also introduced trialist Paul Anderson off the bench.
Rory Holden came close to claiming an unintentional equaliser when his over-hit cross from the left went flying past the far post. The forward then had an effort blocked after finding space on the edge of the box.
Jesurun Rak-Sakyi missed the chance to double Palace’s advantage when he drilled straight at the legs of Rose after breaking through on goal.
Walsall were playing well, however, a booming clearance from substitute Manny Monthe briefly threatening to put Kieran Phillips in behind.
Monthe showed his physicality with a crunching challenge on Jean-Philippe Mateta before Phillips almost pulled the Saddlers level with five minutes to go, latching on to a long ball but sending the finish off the bar.
Walsall (4-2-3-1): Rushworth (Rose HT), White (Foulkes 68), Taylor © (Leak 61), Menayese (Monthe 61), Ward (Perry 61), Mills, Kinsella, Holden (Maher 76), Osadebe (Trialist), Kiernan (Sadler 83), Phillips
Palace first half: Guaita, Clyne, Kelly, Tomkins, Mitchell, McArthur, Riedewald, Schlupp, Street, Zaha, Ayew.
Palace second half: Butland, Banks, Boateng, Hannan, O’Brien, Kirby, Wells-Morrison,
Ray-Sakyi, Gordon, Quick, Steele.