Reds endured a hugely disappointing night as they were well beaten by Doncaster in Sky Bet League One at the Checkatrade.com Stadium and lost skipper Joe Walsh to a second-half red card.
Goals from Andy Butler (38), Richie Wellens (55) and Nathan Tyson (64) had the visitors in cruise control before Walsh was shown a straight red after appearing to raise his hands to Wellens midway through the second half.
Harry Forrester made it 4-0 on 73 minutes and Curtis Main added a fifth in stoppage time as Reds suffered their heaviest home defeat as a League club against admittedly impressive opponents.
Dean Saunders named the same side that had lost at Yeovil on Saturday but it was the visitors who were much the livelier in the early stages.
Lewis Price made a fine double save to twice deny Forrester after just two minutes then Ryan Dickson produced a fine block to stop a goalbound effort from ex-Reds’ loanee Kyle Bennett.
It was not hard to see why Rovers came into the contest unbeaten away from home since October as they buzzed around menacingly.
Dean Furman headed a teasing cross from Tyson over the bar then Price had to be alert to prevent Forrester’s corner creeping inside the near post.
At the other end Reds were struggling to test Stephen Bywater. Mathias Pogba dragged a shot wide after cutting in from the left and Izale McLeod ended a storming run from inside his own half with a shot that finally tested the Doncaster keeper.
But the visitors continued to look more threatening. Tyson’s volley from the left-hand side of the box was pushed away by Price but the pressure finally told on 38 minutes when Rovers went in front.
Anthony Wordsworth was harshly punished for bringing down Forrester 30 yards out. The ex-Brentford man swung in the free kick and Pogba’s clearing header dropped inside the six-yard box and BUTLER stabbed it home.
It was no more than Doncaster deserved after dominating the first 45 minutes, which had also seen bookings for Forrester and Reds’ Gwion Edwards.
Saunders made a change at the break with Lanre Oyebanjo replaced by Bobson Bawling but after a quiet start to the second half the visitors doubled their lead.
Bennett got the better of Bawling down the left and his ball across the face of goal was turned in at the far post by WELLENS.
Reds responded when a free kick deep into the visitors’ box dropped to McLeod but his shot on the turn didn’t really trouble Bywater but Doncaster soon threatened a third after Crawley lost the ball in midfield and Tyson teed up Bennett but he skied his shot onto the roof of the North Stand.
Saunders reacted with a second change as Lee Fowler replaced Smith on the hour and Darren Ward wasn’t far away from toe-ending Wordsworth’s free kick from the left-hand side into the net as Reds looked for a response.
But it was Doncaster who stretched their lead on 64 minutes. Enda Stevens’ pass sent TYSON between two defenders and as Price came out of goal the Doncaster striker lobbed him into the top corner.
Things went from bad to worse three minutes later when skipper Joe Walsh was shown a straight red card after raising his hands on Wellens which prompted a melee involving several players before the referee Lee Collins restored some calm.
Sonny Bradley came on for Pogba but Price produced an excellent tip-over from Forrester’s free kick as Doncaster sensed more goals against a depleted home side.
The fourth came on 73 minutes when FORRESTER finished off a fine passing move with a close-range finish past Price and it nearly got worse when Elliott was dispossessed and the ball played through to sub Theo Robinson but with only Price to beat he dragged his shot wide. Fellow substitute Curtis Main then had a sight of goal but he lost control and could only stab a tame effort at Price.
But MAIN was bang on target in the first minute of stoppage time when he ran at a retreating defence and side-footed into the bottom corner.
It left the Crawley management with much to ponder ahead of Saturday’s home tussle against Barnsley.