Matt Tubbs made a glorious return to familiar territory with the only goal as Reds beat Peterborough 1-0 thanks to the striker’s late penalty.
Tubbs made no mistake from the spot four minutes from time after Jack Baldwin had handled Andy Drury’s cross as Reds climbed into mid-table as they completed the double over play-off chasing Posh.
The visitors complained about the penalty award and in truth it always looked as if a set piece would decide a game between two sides who defended resolutely.
John Gregory started with the side that finished Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Swindon. It meant a full debut up front for Sullay Kaikai while Dannie Bulman came into midfield, with Drury and Jamie Proctor dropping to the bench.
Apart from a sanded area in front of the dugouts the pitch looked in good condition for Reds’ first home league game since December 29.
Reds made a bright start and in the first 20 minutes were the dominant force, keeping the ball well on a bobbly surface and carving out decent chances.
Tubbs forced Bobby Olejnik to turn his close-range shot over for a corner in the third minute after the striker was allowed too much time in the box.
Kaikai then won a free kick on the edge of the box and took it himself, forcing Olejnik to make another save.
Peterborough threatened for the first time on 10 minutes when Tommy Rowe’s pass found Danny Swanson in space but he sliced his shot wide of the near post.
The visitors were content to give free kicks away and when ex-Red Michael Bostwick fouled Dicker, referee Lee Collins booked him.
Bostwick was involved at the other end on 18 minutes when he drilled a low free kick through the wall but Paul Jones got down to make a solid claim against his former club.
Tubbs then threatened again when he met Mark Connolly’s cross with a header that went tamely wide of the left-hand upright.
Posh began to come more into things towards the end of the first half and had a decent chance on 28 minutes. Mark Little made ground down the left and his pull-back fell nicely for Rowe, but he could only steer a shot from 15 yards over the bar.
After a lively start the game had deteriorated with both sides guilty of giving the ball away cheaply but Tubbs nearly broke through on 38 minutes when he played a neat one-two with Josh Simpson but his side-footer was held to his left by Olejnik.
Three minutes before the break Rowe hit a powerful shot from 20 yards, which knocked Mark Connolly over such was the force of the strike, but Crawley cleared the resultant corner.
Gregory made a change for the second half with Jamie Proctor replacing Kaikai and Reds began on the front foot, forcing a corner which came out to Mike Jones whose first-time volley landed on the roof of the net.
Peterborough then broke and at the end of a flowing move Bostwick left fly from 25 yards but the ball was always going wide of the right-hand post then Jones blocked an angled shot from Ajose as the contest began to open up.
Reds made a second change after 55 minutes with Drury replacing Dicker before Posh threatened again when Britt Assombalonga got inside the box but Jones stood up well to block his shot.
Reds thought they had broken the deadlock on 63 minutes when Tubbs spun in the box to make space for a low cross which took a deflection and appeared to be creeping over the line before Olejnik grabbed it on the line with Joe Walsh looking to pounce.
With 15 minutes to go it was hard to see where the breakthrough was going to come although both sides continued to probe away against resolute defences.
Mat Sadler ran onto a cross from Connolly that was cleared to him 25 yards out but his effort sailed high and wide of the Bruce Winfield Stand but those behind the goal were cheering with six minutes to go when Reds went in front. Drury’s free kick from the left was handled by Baldwin and referee Collins pointed to the spot. Up stepped TUBBS to score with a cheeky chip over Olejnik, his fifth goal in as many games and his 39th in 40 appearances in front of the Crawley crowd.
Tubbs made way for Paul Connolly in stoppage time and was named man of the match but there was a scare for Reds with seconds left when Conor Washington met a deep cross at the far post and his shot rolled across the face of goal and hit the post before Andy Drury booted it to safety.
Seconds later the final whistle blew and Reds could celebrate a winning return to the Checkatrade.com Stadium.