Two-goal Karlan Ahearne-Grant ensured Reds’ 688-mile round trip to Carlisle was rewarded with a battling point.
The home side seemed to be cruising when Hallam Hope added to Richie Bennett’s first-half goal to make it 2-0 just after the break.
But Ahearne-Grant struck twice – his second after a terrible mistake by home keeper Jack Bonham – to make it six goals since he joined Reds on loan from Charlton at the end of January.
With Josh Docherty (broken hand) an addition to the injured list and Josh Yorwerth starting a two-match ban, Harry Kewell had made two changes with Joe McNerney and Cedric Evina coming into defence. The hosts included ex-Reds’ midfielder Mike Jones.
Reds certainly had their fair share of the ball in the first half and won three corners in the opening third of the contest without testing Bonham. Both sides were guilty of coughing up possession too readily and it wasn’t until the 28th minute before the first shot on target when Glenn Morris got behind Hope’s effort.
Jimmy Smith’s appeal for handball against Clint Hill eight minutes later when his cross struck the defender’s arm fell on deaf ears. Reds wasted the corner and 60 seconds later Carlisle broke the deadlock.
Reds failed to clear their lines down their left and Jamie Devitt’s pass found Bennett on the left-hand side of the box and he drilled a low shot beyond Morris into the far corner.
Bonham made his first save in stoppage time when he held Smith’s shot after a good build-up but within a minute of the re-start Carlisle doubled their lead with a horrible goal from Crawley’s perspective. The visitors had three chances to clear Reggie Lambe’s cross inside the six-yard box but failed to do so and when Bennett chipped up a cross, as the visitors appealed for foot-up, a gentle header by Hope dropped just over the line.
Carlisle haven’t lost this season when they are in front but Reds refused to accept the inevitable.
Kewell brought on Panutche Camara for Randall in the 54th minute and two minutes later they got back into the game. Young found Ahearne-Grant just inside the box and despite having four defenders in front him the striker drilled a low right-foot shot inside Bonham’s left-hand post to make it 2-1.
Reds were now playing a 4-2-4 and enjoyed their best spell of the game. McNerney volleyed Ahearne-Grant’s corner over, Camara nearly got a touch onto Young’s cross at the near post while at the other end Morris made a good save to deny former Horley Town striker Ashley Nadesan.
The momentum was with Reds though and ten minutes from time they drew level, after a terrible blunder by Bonham. Ahearne-Grant’s shot should have been easily saved but the keeper, perhaps deceived by a deflection, allowed it to squirm through his grasp and into the net.
Reds looked the side who might sneak a win in the closing stages but they had to settle for as hard-fought point ahead of two important home games this week.
Crawley: (4-2-3-1): Morris 5; Young 5, McNerney 6, Connolly 6, Evina 5; Bulman 5, Payne 5 (Tajbakhsh 69 5); Boldewijn 6, Smith 5, Ahearne-Grant 7; Randall 5 (Camara 54 5).
Unused subs: Mersin, Cox, Djalo, Lelan.
Attendance: 4097 (75 Crawley)