Reds claimed their first win since October 21 after Lee Fowler hit a stunning late winner on his debut.
The midfielder, who was signed yesterday, struck a first-time volley from the edge of the box with four minutes to go to sink Preston and give Reds their first win in 15 and first under Dean Saunders. It also lifted us off the foot of the League One table.
Anthony Wordsworth had also scored his first Crawley goal to give the hosts a 16th minute lead before Paul Huntington equalised early in the second half.
But after Lanre Oyebanjo hit the bar, Fowler stepped up to send the majority of a 2,550 crowd home happy.
Dean named an unchanged team for the third successive game with Fowler replacing Matt Harrold (Achilles) on the bench.
Preston arrived without a win in six games but they started on the front foot with Kyel Reid firing over from good positions on two occasions early on before Lewis Price got down well to his left to keep out Josh Brownhill’s side-footer.
Reds began to get a grip on proceedings and their first attack paid dividends in the 16th minute. Lewis Young put over a great ball from the right and WORDSWORTH side-footed past Sam Johnstone from close range.
Anthony Wordsworth puts Reds in front with his first goal for the club.
The goal infused the home side with confidence and Wordsworth turned creator when his pass found Izale McLeod whose first-time shot from 20 yards cleared the bar.
Reid came closest to a leveller for Preston seven minutes before the break but his shot from the edge of a crowded penalty area took a deflection and Price made a comfortable save.
Reds needed to weather the Preston storm at the second half but it took the visitors just eight minutes to equalise. HUNTINGTON had just seen a far-post header tipped over by Price when he met Paul Gallagher’s left-wing corner with a near-post header that flew past the helpless Price.
As they had in the first period Reds worked their way back into the game and Marvin Elliott side-footed over after good work by Edwards before McLeod’s first touch let him down after Wordsworth had flicked on Joe Walsh’s long ball into his path with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Jimmy Smith went desperately close to putting his side back in front after 74 minutes. Calum Woods was booked for bringing down Ryan Dickson 20 yards out and the midfielder’s right-footed free kick was pushed around the post by Johnstone.
Crawley made a double change with Bobson Bawling and Fowler replacing Smith and Young with 15 minutes left.
The visitors threatened again when substitute Chris Humphrey found the side netting after cutting inside from the left as both sides went looking for a winner.
But Reds came on strong in the closing stages. Oyebanjo was inches away from scoring his first Crawley goal with 11 minutes to go. McLeod’s cross-field pass was dummied by Bawling and the full back’s curling effort struck the bar with Johnstone beaten.
Reds were not to be denied and three minutes from time FOWLER struck a stunning goal. Wordsworth’s corner from the left dropped to the midfielder and he struck a brilliant first-time volley from the edge of the box past a helpless Johnstone.
The home side saw out the rest of the game comfortably enough to make it three unbeaten at home under Saunders and give everyone a lift ahead of next Saturday's big game at Yeovil.