Reds suffered only their second defeat in the last seven games as Peterborough ran out deserved winners at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
The biggest crowd of the season saw Izale McLeod give the home side the perfect start with a second minute goal.
But by the break Posh led 2-1 and then two goals in two minutes early in the second half put the seal on a comfortable win for the visitors, their first in three league meetings with Crawley.
During the last international break Reds conceded four goals against Rochdale and there is no doubt that they missed both Joe Walsh and Gwion Edwards, who were once again on Wales’ duty.
John Gregory made four changes to the side that beat Luton 1-0 in the JP Trophy on Tuesday. Jamie Ashdown, Lanre Oyebanjo, Jimmy Smith and McLeod were all recalled with Josh Simpson, Ryan Dickson and Emmett O’Connor still sidelined by injury.
Reds made the perfect start with a goal after two minutes – the earliest they have scored this season. Tomlin created it with a lovely pass inside the Posh defence and McLEOD ran onto it before despatching a low drive into the far corner for his sixth goal of the season.
But it proved to be a false dawn as far as Crawley were concerned. Peterborough mounted a furious response with four corner and Jack Baldwin headed wide from one of them before Jon Taylor was inches away from converting Conor Washington’s ball across the face of goal.
But the pressure paid off on 11 minutes. Jamie Ashdown made a terrific recovery save to deny Jon Newell but Taylor laid the ball back into the path of SMITH who side-footed into the roof of the net for his first Peterborough goal.
Reds suffered a blow midway through the half when McLeod limped off with a knee injury and was replaced by Matt Harrold.
The visitors continued to set the pace with a succession of corners although it was by no means all one-way traffic. Young’s clever pass played in Harrold and Ben Alnwick came out quickly to smother at his feet. Marvin Elliott then sent an acrobatic overhead kick just wide when Harrold nodded Jimmy Smith’s corner back across goal and Dean Leacock’s volley from 15 yards was tipped over the bar by Alnwick.
Harrold then had appeals for a penalty ignored by referee Bull after Alnwick appeared to bundle him over in the box.
But the visitors won 11 corners in the first half and they made their set-piece superiority pay three minutes before the break when Christian BURGESS, who was wearing a protective mask after breaking his nose a fortnight ago, met Washington’s corner with a header which deflected off a defender on its way past a helpless Ashdown.
The Reds’ keeper made a terrific save low down to push away Taylor’s shot as the visitors ended the half firmly on the offensive.
Reds made a spirited start to the second period and Lanre Oyebanjo fired over after a good run from deep before Tomlin failed to keep Young’s cross on target with his header.
But it was Peterborough who put the game to bed with two goals in two minutes. On 55 minutes Ashdown’s attempted pass out was intercepted by MADDISON, who side-footed into an empty net from a narrow angle.
Then two minutes later Newell set up WASHINGTON whose powerful drive took a deflection past a helpless Ashdown into the bottom corner.
The Reds’ keeper came to his side’s rescue midway through the half when he pushed away a shot from Washington who had burst into the box before Reds made their second change with Charles Banya coming on for Tomlin in a 4-4-2 formation.
But Peterborough saw the game out comfortably enough leaving Reds to re-group ahead of a testing trip to Meadow Lane to face Notts County next Saturday.