Crawley Town suffered a fifth consecutive defeat as they slipped to within three points of the League One relegation zone.
Jamie Proctor’s sensational equaliser looked like it would earn Reds a point after Uche Ikpeazu had given Crewe the lead in the first half.
But substitute Brad Inman fired home a winner for struggling Crewe with ten minutes to go as Reds dropped to 17th in the table.
Crawley – still missing injured top scorer Matt Tubbs - got off to a very slow start and found themselves behind after 17 minutes.
Mathias Pogba took advantage of some weak challenges to force his way into the area and although his deflected shot was saved by Paul Jones the Reds keeper only pushed it into the path of Ikpeazu who gratefully stabbed home from five yards.
Reds had a chance to reply instantly but Billy Clarke’s powerful shot was tipped over the bar by Ben Garratt.
That was as good as it got for Crawley for the remainder of the opening 45 minutes as they looked completely disjointed.
Reds also lost their discipline as frustration grew with Rory Fallon, Gary Dicker and Kyle McFadzean all receiving yellow cards.
The home side started the second half more brightly but were unable to create any real opportunities apart from a 20-yard shot from Mike Jones which fizzed just wide.
The introduction of Jeffrey Monakana and Proctor after 57 minutes provided Crawley with the energy they had been badly missing.
Monakana won a corner which led to Mark Connolly’s deflected shot coming back off an upright and then Proctor heading over when the ball was put back into the box.
Proctor then equalised with a goal completely out of the blue. There seemed nothing on when the striker collected the ball 25 yards out but he unleashed an unstoppable stop which flew past Ben Garratt and into the top corner.
The momentum appeared to be with Reds now but their vulnerability on the counter-attack was highlighted when Liam Nolan shot just wide.
The warning was not heeded and Crewe retook the lead with ten minutes to go. Subsitute Inman got to Byron Moore’s long ball ahead of Paul Jones to poke the ball past the keeper and into the net.
Crawley (4-4-2): P Jones; M Connolly, McFadzean, Walsh, Sadler; Simpson, Torres, Dicker, M Jones (Monakana, 57); Clarke (Proctor, 57), Fallon (Kaikai, 87). Subs not used: Maddison, P Connolly, Boateng, Edwards.
Crewe ( 4-4-2): Garratt; Tootle, Ellis, Dugdale, Guthrie; Pogba (Inman, 73), Nolan, Grant, Moore; Aneke (Ray, 86), Ikpeazu (Oliver, 65). Subs not used: Phillips, Mellor, Osman, Waters.