Reds suffered their biggest defeat of the Mark Yates’ era after they were floored by four second-half goals from promotion-chasing Oxford.
After being introduced onto the pitch for the first time as new owner of the club, Ziya Eren watched Crawley produce their best 45 minutes for a while and it was a tad harsh that they found themselves level at the break.
Joe McNerney had put Crawley in front with his first goal for the club but Chris Maguire equalised seven minutes before the break and Oxford took control thanks to goals early in the second half from Callum O’Dowda and Liam Sercombe.
Maguire added a fourth from the spot and George Waring scored late on to complete an emphatic result that was harsh on Reds, given their first-half display.
Matt Harrold and McNerney were both denied by goalline clearances in a lively first quarter as Reds, who made five changes, played on the front foot.
McNerney’s effort came from a header from Lyle Della-Verde’s corner, but moments later the No.5 was celebrating. The second corner was recycled by Josh Yorwerth after Gavin Tomlin’s initial effort came back off a defender and McNerney clipped it past Benji Buchel.
But that was as good as it got for Crawley. On 38 minutes they failed to clear Alex McDonald’s cross and Maguire belted an angled drive from just inside the box past Jack Rose.
The keeper had already made a good save from Sercombe early into his debut and he was again excellent in the second half and certainly didn’t deserve to have five goals put past him.
Oxford started the second half, kicking towards their boisterous 1,476 following, strongly and were in front on 47 minutes. Danny Hylton played a clever pass into space and O’Dowda nipped in between Yorwerth and McNerney to beat Rose with aplomb.
Seven minutes later it was 3-1. Sercombe had too much space on the left, after more good work by Hylton, and clipped his shot with just enough power over Rose and inside the far post.
Frankie Sutherland’s drive was blocked by Johnny Mullins but that was a rare riposte by Reds. Oxford picked holes in their defence on the break and Rose denied Hylton before Johnjoe Kenny skied the follow-up on the volley.
MacDonald hit the right-hand post after Sercombe’s pass had picked him out and when McNerney’s header dropped short Rose did superbly again to keep out Hylton’s volley.
But it was 4-1 on 72 minutes when Simon Walton brought down Maguire just inside the box and Maguire stepped up to score from the penalty spot.
Kenny was again denied by Rose but Oxford got a fifth in the 87th minute when substitute George Waring bundled home a cross from the right-hand side.
A game that had started so brightly for Reds ended in big disappointment. The only consolation is that results elsewhere means Reds are mathematically safe from the threat of relegation.