Reds could consider themselves extremely unfortunate to suffer a fourth successive League 2 defeat at Kingsmeadow on Saturday.
They had more than matched play-off chasing AFC Wimbledon until the 82nd minute when Paul Robinson’s free header settled it.
Before then Crawley had looked more likely to score with Sonny Bradley hitting the bar and Lee Barnard forcing an instinctive save out of Dons’ keeper Kelle Roos.
Reds matched their hosts all over the pitch but found themselves punished for a lapse at the back as Wimbledon scored from their only effort on target in the second half.
Mark Yates had made five changes to the team thrashed 5-1 by Oxford last time out. In came Jon Ashton, Jimmy Smith, Andy Bond, Barnard and Charles Dunne with Matt Harrold (knee) and Gavin Tomlin (hamstring) sidelined by injury and Simon Walton, Frankie Sutherland and Josh Yorwerth dropped to the bench.
Three former Reds, Rhys Murphy, Dannie Bulman and Darius Charles, were included in the Wimbledon starting XI.
Wimbledon switched to a 4-4-3 formation while Reds sprung a tactical surprise of their own with skipper Bradley alongside Barnard up front.
As expected, the home side started strongly and Robinson headed an early corner wide before Bulman broke forward to fire straight at Jack Rose from 20 yards.
But in a very scrappy, physical first half it was Reds who went closest to a breakthrough in the 23rd minute when Bradley twisted to meet Lyle Della-Verde’s corner from the left with a powerful header that struck the top of the crossbar.
That was the best chance of a disappointing 45 containing plenty of perspiration but little inspiration, although a rutted, heavy pitch hardly helped. Connor Smith was booked for a late challenge on namesake Jimmy.
The second half started much better with Reds creating two good chances in the space of four minutes.
In the 47th Bradley’s flick on found Barnard with his back to goal and he turned well but fired straight at goalkeeper Kelle Roos. It was one of those shots which if he’d mis-hit would probably have gone in.
Two minutes later Della-Verde found space 30 yards out and his dipping effort was only just wide of the left-hand post.
Both Rose and Dons’ Jon Meades, who was also booked for fouling Gwion Edwards, needed treatment as the temperature rose on the pitch before a throw was cleared to Della-Verde and his volley through a crowded box wasn’t far away.
The home side made two changes, bringing on Adebayo Azeez for Akinfenwa and Callum Kennedy for Meades but after the flurry of goalmouth activity at the second half the quality in the final third dipped again.
Joe McNerney looped a header over the bar when Andy Bond returned a half-cleared corner back into the six-yard box before Della-Verde again failed to test Roos from a good position 22 yards out.
At this stage, with 15 minutes to go, Reds looked the likely winners. They made their first change when Barnard was replaced by Shamir Fenelon but with eight minutes left the hosts struck. Full back Barry Fuller produced an excellent right-wing cross and Robinson rose unmarked to plant a downward header past an exposed Rose.
Wimbledon saw the game out comfortably enough but Reds will take plenty of positives from their performance into Tuesday’s game against the new champions Northampton Town.