Reds moved into the top half of the League One table after goals from Matt Tubbs and debutant Gwion Edwards secured a hard-fought win over struggling Tranmere.
Tubbs scored his eighth goal of the season with a sensational free kick after 37 minutes from 25 yards which arrowed into the top right-hand corner.
Rovers were much more of a threat in the second half and had chances to equalise but with five minutes to go Edwards, who is on loan from Swansea, scored his first career League goal when he converted Gary Dicker’s pass.
A second win in four days took Crawley up to 12th and 52 points and should ensure they can enjoy the last five games of the season free of any lingering relegation worries.
There was just one change to the side that won at MK Dons on Saturday for Reds with Tubbs coming in and Gary Dicker dropping to the bench. Also among the subs for the first time since January 25 was defender Connor Essam, who has recovered from an ankle injury that sidelined him for several weeks.
Both sides looked lively in the opening stages. Tubbs nearly profited from a slip by Ian Goodison then Matt Pennington, up from the back, met a corner with a firm header that Paul Jones, making his 100th start for Reds, saved on the line.
Andy Drury’s corner on 12 minutes eluded Rovers’ goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams as it flashed across the six-yard box with no one in a red shirt able to apply a decisive touch. Tubbs’ deflected cross then fell nicely for Mike Jones but his shot was deflected over for a corner by Pennington.
Tubbs was involved again on 18 minutes when Josh Simpson, who was finding plenty of space down the right, picked out the striker 12 yards out and his acrobatic half-volley was only a couple of yards wide.
Jones was tested again on 30 minutes when Max Power unleashed a 30-yarder which the keeper initially fumbled before grabbing at the second attempt. Tranmere were content to soak up pressure when Reds had the ball and while the hosts had kept tidy possession for the first third of the game they were having to be patient.
But patient they were and when Dannie Bulman was brought down 25 yards out in the 37th minute TUBBS struck, curling a superb free kick with his right foot over the defensive wall and into the top corner. It gave the home side some confidence and when Jamie Proctor controlled a long ball from Mat Sadler his turn and shot wasn’t far away with Fon Williams stranded.
Reds began the second half well but they had a big let-off on 52 minutes. Kyle McFadzean failed to cut out a long ball forward leaving Jake Cassidy bearing down on goal but Jones was equal to his shot, turning it past the near post with a terrific reflex save. Jean Akpa-Akpro then found the side netting after cutting in from the right as the visitors enjoyed their best spell of the game so far.
Tubbs was replaced by Sergio Torres on the hour as Reds reverted to the 4-5-1 formation they had employed at MK Dons with Drury playing just in behind Proctor. The striker let fly from 20 yards but Fon Williams was not going to be tested before Jones made a decent save at his near post to keep out Cassidy’s angled effort.
Edwards came on with 14 minutes remaining to play on the left of midfield with Mike Jones switching to the right and Simpson moving into a central position. Six minutes later came the final Reds’ change as Dicker replaced Simpson.
Tranmere should have equalised moments later. Cassidy played a lovely ball in from the left onto the head of Akpa Akpro, but he headed straight at Jones from inside the six-yard box.
It proved a costly miss as Reds doubled their lead on 85 minutes. Dicker threaded a pass through the visitors’ defence and EDWARDS poked a low shot past the helpless Fon Williams. It was harsh on the visitors, who had looked the more threatening side for much of the second half.
Proctor nearly put extra gloss on the result in the closing stages. He fired inches wide then hit the far post with a curling effort from the edge of the box as Reds finished with a swagger.