Reds could consider themselves extremely hard done by after they suffered a second successive defeat at the Lamax Stadium.
Stevenage opened the scoring from an early corner headed in by Peter Hartley but then had to defend for long stages as Reds dominated possession and chances.
Home keeper Chris Day made superb saves to deny Kyle Bennett, Josh Simpson and James Hurst while Dannie Bulman squandered the best opportunity when Bennett played him in just before the break but he clipped his shot agonizingly wide. It was that sort of afternoon for the players, management and a noisy contingent of travelling fans.
And it was made worst in the final minute when Michael Doughty squeezed a shot past Paul Jones to give the hosts a flattering margin of victory.
Richie Barker made two changes to the side beaten 3-0 at Port Vale on Tuesday with Gary Alexander restored to the starting line-up and Kyle Bennett given a debut after signing on loan from Doncaster on Friday. Ex-Red Doughty, who had a loan spell in 2011, faced his former club for Stevenage.
Bennett nearly made a dream start to his Crawley career. Inside a minute he unleashed a drive from 25 yards which Day flung himself to his right to keep out.
It was a rare moment of quality in the opening 40 minutes from either side. Stevenage's style might not necessarily please the purist's eye but it is effective and making their physical superiority count at set pieces is a key part of their game plan.
It paid off after just eight minutes when left-back Peter HARTLEY made a diagonal run in the box and met Greg Tansey's inswinging corner with as thumping header which gave Jones no chance.
It was just the start a confident home side needed and they set about protecting their lead with vigour, too much in the case of Luke Freeman and Filipe Morais who were both booked as the free kick count started to mount.
Jones had a scare on 14 minutes when his clearance thundered off Francois Zoko but dropped wide of his left-hand post but that turned out to be the last threat on his goal in the first half.
Reds slowly began to get to grip with the game and in the last five minutes of the half they created three chances to equalise.
Nicky Adams found a precious pocket of space to turn and fire a shot just wide and moments later he won the ball off Doughty and set Bennett free. He ran deep into the box and rolled the ball invitingly into Bulman's path but the midfielder poked his shot inches wide.
Day then pulled off a great save to keep out Josh Simpson's shot and Andy Drury couldn't keep a far post header from Adams' centre on target as Reds finished the first half on top.
The second half began with Reds in the ascendancy although space in front of an often massed home defence continued to be at a premium. Adams thought he'd found a way through on 51 minutes but forced wide his shot was hacked clear by Jon Ashton for a corner which fell to Drury, but the sting was taken out of his shot by a big deflection and Day made an easy save.
Freeman had a sight of goal when he cut inside only to shoot over on 66 minutes but it was a rare moment of alarm for Paul Jones, with the game being played more and more in the Stevenage half.
Turning possession into clear-cut chances remained difficult for Crawley though. as Stevenage placed more emphasis on protecting their lead, although Simpson thought he'd found a way through only to fire over from an angle. Moments later Bennett tip-toed his way to the by-line and rolled the ball across the face of goal but thee was no one in a black shirt to capitalise.
As the game reached its climax Reds were vulnerable to the counter and when Stevenage cleared a corner substitute Oumare Tounkara found some space and placed his shot a couple of yards wide of the far post.
By then Richie had introduced Emile Sinclair, Jamie Proctor and James Hurst as they stepped up the search for an equaliser they richly deserved. Four minutes from time Hurst thought he'd scored it when a corner was played to him on the edge of the box and his powerful drive was tipped over at full stretch by Day.
Reds must have known then it wouldn't be their day and that fact was rammed home when DOUGHTY made the game safe with a low strike from the corner of the six-yard box.