Port Vale boss Micky Adams was full of praise for skipper Doug Loft after his 84th-minute winner inflicted Crawley Town's fourth straight defeat.
Loft needed a stroke of luck as his 20-yard shot slipped through the fingers of visiting goalkeeper Paul Jones and rolled over the line to secure a 2-1 win.
It was tough on Crawley who had dominated much of the game until midfielder Dannie Bulman was sent off for a second yellow card in the 66th minute.
But Adams said: "Doug always give his all and plays in all sort of positions so I'm really pleased for him. He's a great lad and he can be proud of what he has achieved at this football club.
"Not everything he does comes off for him, but that is usually the case for players at this level.
"I usually tell him not to shoot from that distance because his technique is average to say the least. He usually leans back and fires the ball well over the bar.
"But thankfully on this occasion he decided to take no notice of me and give it a go. Their goalkeeper has had a disaster, but if you don't shoot, you don't score.
"The ball bounced just in front of the keeper and it was a difficult save to make, but I'm sure he will be disappointed not to have made it."
Crawley were out of the traps quickly and missed enough chances to put the game to bed inside the opening 20 minutes.
The best of them fell to Billy Clarke in the 17th minute when his 12-yard shot was cleared off the line by Richard Duffy.
Clarke finally rewarded the visitors' dominance 10 minutes from the interval when he made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Vale defender Joe Davis felled Rory Fallon and Clarke fired his spot-kick inside Sam Johnson's left-hand post as the Vale keeper dived in the opposite direction.
Jennison Myrie-Williams and Billy Knott also squandered good opportunities for Vale in a first half which should have produced more goals.
Crawley started the second half confidently, but Vale equalised with a terrific goal by Knott in the 50th minute.
The visitors failed to clear after Tom Pope headed down Duffy's cross and Knott cracked a 20-yard left-foot shot which flicked the underside of the bar on its way in.
Crawley should have regained the lead when Clarke was denied by Johnson in the 66th minute, and Bulman was given his marching orders just a minute later.
The visitors looked set to hold on until Loft's powerful strike evaded Jones' grasp.
Vale were also reduced to 10 men in the last minute when defender Chris Robertson was sent off for violent conduct following an altercation with Mark Connolly.
Crawley skipper Josh Simpson said: "We are really disappointed with the result because our performance level was very good and we outplayed Vale for most of the game.
"The sending-off went against us and after Vale scored we just couldn't quite force an equaliser at the end.
"We had a lot of chances, but we weren't ruthless enough in front of goal. It's difficult to take because we played some quality football and ended up with no points.
"What we have to do is pick ourselves up and aim for three points against Crewe on Saturday. It will be a tough game because they are fighting for their lives, but it is a game we will be looking to win.
"It would be good to get to the 50-point mark as soon as possible, but our confidence levels are still high and we are looking up the table rather than down."