Reds’ hopes of pushing into the play-off positions suffered a setback as they slumped to their first League One defeat in eight games.
Louis Dodd and Ben Williamson punished defensive mistakes either side of a strike from Doug Loft to leave the Crawley crowd stunned and a slick Port Vale outfit celebrating a deserved victory.
There was no lack of effort from Reds but in contrast to Saturday’s performance too many players had off nights although Richie Barker will be confident of a positive response at Stevenage on Saturday.
Reds did have their chances but Vale were well organised and always seemed to get a body in the way when clear-cut openings presented themselves.
The boss named the same side that beat Bradford on Saturday with James Hurst returning after suspension to the bench. Vale left strikers Tom Pope and Lee Hughes on the bench as Micky Adams made four changes to the side beaten 2-1 by Sheffield United at the weekend.
Reds began brightly but it was Vale who had the first chance on five minutes when debutant Jordan Hugill got in front of Mat Sadler to meet Ben Williamson's cross with a diving header which flashed past the left-hand post.
Emile Sinclair threatened for Reds four minutes later when he burst clear and side-footed just wide of the left-hand post but it was Vale who opened the scoring on nine minutes. DODDS intercepted a back pass by Joe Walsh intended for Paul Jones and took it past the keeper before sliding it in from a tight angle. Dodds had maintained his record of scoring in every game against Reds.
It was a blow for the hosts against a lively Vale outfit and as they looked for a response Liam Chilvers produced an excellent tackle as Sinclair threatened again.
But it was the visitors who doubled their lead on 27 minutes. Jordan Hugill beat the offside trap wide on the left and pulled a great ball back into the path of LOFT who gave Jones no chance with an emphatic finish.
Dodds nearly got his second with an angled right-foot shot which went just wide before Andy Drury responded with a strike from distance which flew well over.
Vale had another good chance on 35 minutes when Chris Lines broke down the right and delivered an excellent cross into a good area which Hugill attacked and got in a shot which Jones dived full length to his right to save.
It was already a very open contest with both sides committed to attack. But luck was not with Crawley at this stage as on-target efforts from Nicky Adams and Sinclair both hit Vale defenders, much to the frustration of the home supporters.
At this stage Reds’ final ball was not as good as the visitors and their shooting awry, as Adams demonstrated when he took aim from 25 yards but the ball flew over the target. Vale always seemed to have a defender on hand to clear when danger threatened and they broke again in stoppage time when Lines got clear in the box and his shot was superbly parried by Jones, who had been much the busier keeper in the first half.
Loft was booked for handball in stoppage time and Reds made a change for the second half as Connor Essam replaced Kyle McFadzean.
There was a cagey start to the second half but as the home fans found their voice Vale went 3-0 up after 56 minutes. Dodds’ pass exposed a big gap in the home defence and WILLIAMSON was through and gave Jones no chance with his finish from 12 yards. It was the first time Crawley had conceded three at home in the League since September 2012 against Portsmouth.
Reds were still creating though and Adams forced keeper Chris Neal to push away his shot from the edge of the box before the boss made his final change on 63 minutes when Luke Rooney came on for Bulman.
Proctor headed a good chance wide when Drury’s angled ball picked him out but even the consolation goal they deserved eluded Reds as the contest fizzled out and Crawley were left to lick their wounds.