After a difficult first half in which Jason Puncheon comically missed a penalty for the visitors, Tim Sherwood's men rallied after the break to seal three points
The England striker's February move to MLS side Toronto FC was confirmed on Friday and he was greeted warmly by the White Hart Lane faithful before finding a typically assured finish to secure a fourth victory in five unbeaten league outings under new boss Tim Sherwood.
It might have been a very different story had Jason Puncheon not woefully missed from the penalty spot in a first half that Palace dominated, their front two of Marouane Chamakh and Cameron Jerome providing a constant threat.
But Christian Eriksen's third goal in four league games settled the nerves of the home fans, who were then able to salute their soon-to-be-departed striker.
|VIEW FROM WHITE HART LANE
|By Greg Stobart
What a way for Jermain Defoe to show Tottenham what they will be missing when he moves to Toronto in February.
On as a second-half substitute, the England striker scored with a typically clinical finish to seal a home victory that was nowhere near as routine as the scoreline might suggest.
Spurs were woeful in the first half and should have been behind at the break but Jason Puncheon fluffed his chance with the worst penalty that you will see all season. The midfielder's face as he trudged down the tunnel at full-time told the story of a huge missed opportunity.
Palace were sharper on and off the ball in the first half while the hosts were ponderous in possession and lacked commitment in challenges.
Manager Tim Sherwood would have had some stern words at half-time and Tottenham improved enough after the restart to finally take control of the game and win the three points to boost their top-four ambitions.
Christian Eriksen scored with a lovely finish rifled into the top corner before Defoe clinched it with the kind of strike that he has produced throughout his career.
Tottenham were caught cold by a fast start from their visitors, who should have taken the lead in the eighth minute. Mousa Dembele clattered through Jerome after Damien Delaney had unpicked the home defence with staggering ease, the Tottenham man conceding a clear penalty, only for Puncheon – who almost fell over after colliding with referee Michael Oliver when pacing out his run-up – to blaze high and wide in comedic fashion.
Palace again sabotaged their impressive work when Chamakh rose unchallenged to meet Puncheon's right-wing corner. The former Arsenal man looked destined to score until team-mate Mile Jedinak clattered into his back and the resulting header looped over.
Chamakh was frustrated by the presence of one of his colleagues once more as Tottenham flailed under another set-piece delivery, Yannick Bolasie inadvertently blocking his goalbound volley.
Nabil Bentaleb, making his first Premier League start in midfield for Totteham, then rattled the inside of the post with a blistering 34th-minute drive that then flashed agonisingly across the goalmouth – the closest that Sherwood's men came in a half in which they were comfortably second best.
That was certainly not the case when the action resumed as Bentaleb's midfield colleague, Eriksen, shook off an anonymous opening 45 minutes to give Tottenham a 50th-minute lead. Two minutes earlier, a combination of Delaney and Parr had scrambled clear when the Dane caused panic in the area with a weaving run but they could do nothing to thwart him when Emmanuel Adebayor's flick from Kyle Naughton's pass dropped for him to lash, left-footed, into the roof of the net.
Defoe was afforded a rapturous reception upon his 58th-minute introduction for Roberto Soldado – Sherwood's second change of the half after Kyle Walker had limped off to be replaced by Naughton.
The Canada-bound forward twisted and turned to thread a shot just beyond the far post, an effort Adebayor that agonisingly failed to meet with a decisive touch.
But Defoe was not to be denied as, despite looking to be offside, he evaded Parr's attentions to lift Aaron Lennon’s 73rd-minute pass into the net.
Jedinak, substitute Adlene Guedioura and Chamakh all went close in a spirited finish from Palace but they could not find a way back.