Palace had lost nine of their prior 14 games — six straight at home — before Puncheon’s strike earned a 1-0 win over Norwich and surely secured the Eagles’ top-flight status.
Pardew refused to celebrate survival with Palace 16th, on 37 points and 10 points clear of third bottom Sunderland with six games to go. But he did praise Puncheon.
“He carries this football club in his heart,” Pardew said. “Some players play for a football club, they’re professional, but they have no emotion to it. He’s born here, his family are all from here. They were probably in the stands.”
It was Palace’s first home win since beating Southampton almost four months ago.
Pardew pointed to the FA Cup wins over Saints, Tottenham and Reading which have taken the Eagles to a Wembley semi-final, but he also sensed anxiety in the ranks.
He added: “I was nervous today and I’ve been in this game a long, long time.
“I don’t know if we’re safe, but it’s gone a long, long way towards it.”
Defeat for Alex Neil’s 17th-placed side piles more importance on next Saturday’s clash with Sunderland. “It was always going to be a big match. Today doesn’t change that,” the Norwich boss said.
Norwich, who had beaten West Brom and Newcastle in successive games, appealed in vain for a first-half penalty after Damien Delaney’s challenge on Matt Jarvis.
Neil said: “I feel probably more aggrieved about the fact that I didn’t think either team did enough to win the game.
“It was one of those games where it was going to be decided by a bit of quality or a mistake.”
Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare, Cabaye, Jedinak, Bolasie, Puncheon (Ledley 76), Sako (Zaha 65), Gayle (Wickham 79).
Speroni, Campbell, Lee, Kelly.
Ruddy, Wisdom, Bennett, Klose (Bassong 40), Olsson, Jarvis (Redmond 76), O’Neil, Howson, Brady, Naismith (Bamford 66), Mbokani.
Jerome, Rudd, Hoolahan, Mulumbu.