Reds surrendered a deserved half-time lead as they went down to play-off chasing Stanley on a dramatic afternoon at the Wham Stadium.
The visitors were good value for their lead, which was given to them when Gwion Edwards scored his seventh of the season on 21 minutes.
But Billy Kee levelled early in the second half before a brawl midway through the half saw Shay McCartan and Reds’ Simon Walton sent off along with Accrington’s substitute goalkeeper Jason Mooney.
It was Stanley who then took control. Matty Pearson (72) put them in front and the hosts added further goals in the closing three minutes through Seamus Conneely and Piero Mingoia.
Not surprisingly, Mark Yates named the side which ended Reds’ four-month wait for an away win at Stevenage seven days earlier. Accrington were also unchanged while striker Lee Barnard returned to the Reds’ bench after recovering from a neck problem.
The hosts looked lively in the first 15 minutes, when they forced three corners, but Reds gradually worked their way into the game and Edwards thought he’d won a penalty when his shot hit Brett Halliday but appeals for handball were waved away by referee Andy Haines.
Reds began to grow in confidence and took the lead with a well-worked goal. Roarie Deacon and Gavin Tomlin worked some space down the left to find Walton and the midfielder’s pass was collected by Edwards ten yards out and he turned to fire a right-foot shot into the top left-hand corner with goalkeeper Ross Etheridge helpless.
It was just what Reds needed – something to hold onto – but they looked the more likely side to score as the half wore on. Etheridge had to scramble to his right to make sure efforts from Edwards and the increasingly influential Tomlin went wide.
The hosts had shown little but Paul Jones was called into action in stoppage time to save Joe Wright’s header after Sean McConville’s left-wing cross had been flicked on.
Reds made the worst possible start to the second half when Accrington levelled in the 48th minute. Jones failed to hold onto Matty Crookes’ shot and striker Kee had an easy task to equalise from close range.
Jones then got behind an effort from McCartan before Crooks fired one in from 25 yards that whistled just wide of the right-hand post.
Jon Ashton was booked for a foul on McCartan and Adam Buxton fired the resultant free kick over from 27 yards. At that stage it was hard to believe it was the same Accrington side that had produced such a tepid first-half display.
The game then boiled over during a dramatic two minutes, sparked by a late challenge by McCartan on Ashton. Players from both sides came together, hands were certainly raised and it took a minute or more before referee Andy Haines and his two assistants had restored order. Haines gave McCartan a straight red and then sent off Walton, presumably for something that happened in the aftermath. Accrington also had substitute goalkeeper Jason Mooney, who came onto the pitch to get involved, shown a straight red as well.
It was now 10 v 10 but it made little change to the tempo as Accrington continued to dominate. Ashton was replaced by Ross Jenkins and Reds switched to 4-4-2 but it was no surprise when Stanley took a 72nd-minute lead. Crooks played a great ball over the top and Pearson, who’d headed straight at Jones moments earlier was through and produced a composed finish into the bottom corner.
Six minutes later Kee drilled an angled effort wide as Stanley looked for a clinching third goal and it came with three minutes to go when Conneely beat Jones with a low drive from 22 yards that crept inside the left-hand post.
And Mingoia strode through to make it 4-1 after he'd been sent clear by Kee to complete a miserable second half for Reds