A stunning strike by new signing Lee Fowler earnt a dramatic victory over fourth-placed Preston.
The three points gained ended a miserable 15-game run with a win and lifted them two places off the bottom of the League One table.
Another Crawley newcomer Anthony Wordsworth gave Town the lead in the 17th minute when he netted Lewis Young’s cross from close-range.
Their lead was cancelled out after 55 minutes through a Paul Huntington header.
Finally substitute Fowler crowned a dream debut by scoring Reds’ 87th minute winner just ten minutes after coming on the field.
Dean Saunders named an unchanged team for the third match in a row.
Fowler was on the bench having arrived yesterday on a three-month loan from Conference club Nuneaton Borough.
Preston made four changes which included handing a debut to midfielder Daniel Johnson who they have bought from Aston Villa.
Preston made a strong start with a succession of half chances and nearly scored when Josh Brownhill had a shot from close range which was parried by Lewis Price before Joe Walsh cleared.
Crawley then scored with their first attack of the game, put away excellently from close range by Wordsworth from a fine early ball from the right by Lewis Young.
Izale McLeod cut in from the left and had a go with a shot which went a couple of yards over the bar.
Preston had a spectacular chance to equalise when Calum Woods crossed from the right which the powerfully-built Sylvan Ebanks-Blake controlled on his chest and lifted an overhead kick over the bar.
The visitors emerged looking dangerous from the half-time break as Paul Huntington’s header was tipped over the bar by Lewis Price.
Paul Gallagher then saw a shot deflected narrowly wide as Preston kept the pressure on.
Preston equalised ten minutes after the restart when Huntington sent a glancing header into the net from Paul Gallagher’s corner.
Crawley eased the pressure by going forward themselves as Gwion Edwards set up Marvin Elliott but his shot went well over the bar.
Jimmy Smith forced a full-length save from Preston keeper Sam Jonstone as Reds looked for a winner.
Crawley made two substitutions with Fowler and Bobson Bawling replacing Smith and Young.
The changes nearly bore fruit a few minutes later when a cross from the left and met by Lanre Oyebanjo who hit the crossbar.
Crawley kept going foward in the closing stages and finally scored an incredible second goal when a corner was only half-cleared and Fowler blasted in a terrific volley from outside the box.
REDS: Price, Oyebanjo, Dickson, Edwards, Smith (Fowler 77), McLeod, Walsh, Young (Bawling 77), Ward, Wordsworth, Elliott.
UNUSED SUBS: Bradley, Morgan, Anderson, Tomlin, Dutton
PRESTON: Johnstone, Clarke, Gallagher, Woods, Buchanan (Davies 85), Reid, Welsh (Kilnenny 46), Huntington, Johnson, Brownhill, Ebanks-Blake
UNUSED SUBS: Laird, Wiseman, Humphrey, Davies, Stuckmann, King
REFEREE: James Adcock
ATTENDANCE: 2,550 (Away 515)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Ryan Dickson