Striker Tom Pope scored his eighteenth goal of the season but to no avail as Crawley took all three points on Saturday afternoon.
Manager Neil Aspin made two changes bringing in Sam Hornby and Charlie Raglan in place of Ryan Boot and the injured Kyle Howkins.
The Valiants had the best chance of the opening stages with Tom Pope’s header forcing a fine save out of goalkeeper Glenn Morris on nine minutes. Seven minutes later the striker was denied again as his effort hit the post. But the forward made it third time lucky as he put Vale ahead from James Gibbons’ cross on 20 minutes. It was his eighteenth goal of the season.
However, Vale’s joy lasted just eight minutes as Crawley were awarded a penalty kick after Smith fouled in the box. Joshua Payne made no mistake by equalising from the spot. The Valiants countered with an effort from the impressive Cristian Montano while Sam Hornby had to be alert to prevent a Crawley breakaway.
In the second-half Vale had chances for Pope and Montano before Montano limped off to be replaced by Joe Davis. And in the closing stages it was the visitors who got the crucial goal as Nathan Smith’s deflected own-goal gave them the lead with ten minutes remaining.
It was a disappointing result after Vale’s Easter revival and the Valiants will still be looking for the points that brings them mathematical safety.
Vale: Hornby, Gibbons, Smith, Raglan, Montano (Davis), Worrall, Tonge, Kay (Barnett), Hannant, Whitfield (Harness), Pope
Subs: Lainton, Howe, Forrester, Turner
Attendance: 4,005 (81 away)