Two goals from Kevin Braniff helped Glenavon stun champions Cliftonville with a 3-2 win at Solitude on Saturday.
It was a superb performance with Braniff producing a masterclass to run the game while goalkeeper James McGrath played his part with a vital penalty save early in the second half when the game was still 1-0 to the Lurgan Blues.
But after building up a 3-0 lead the Lurgan Blues were made to sweat right to the end as the Reds pulled two back in the last 15 minutes.
Glenavon made a sound start as they passed the ball about on both flanks but the Reds created the first chance on 14 minutes as Martin Donnelly linked up well with Joe Gormley who blasted his shot over the bar.
A few minutes later Eoin Bradley was pulled down as he tried to get in behind the home defence. Kevin Braniff fancied a direct effort and his well struck shot flew inches over the bar.
Jay Donnelly had the next chance and Glenavon were relieved when he drilled his shot well wide.
Glenavon forced a corner on 24 minutes and the home defence eventually got the ball clear after a scramble in the box.
The Lurgan Blues were enjoying a good spell at this stage and Braniff lobbed the ball forward for Bradley who just failed to get a touch in front of the defender.
The opening goal came on 33 minutes from the penalty spot after Bradley’s shot hit the hand of Knowles and referee Raymond Crangle pointed to the spot. Braniff drilled the ball home for his 15th goal of the season to give Gary Hamilton’s side a vital breakthrough.
The vistors saw out the half but the expected Reds surge began on the restart with Donnelly firing over and then more drama on 51 minutes when referee Crangle seemed to balance the books on the penalty count after Donnelly flicked the ball over Kelly and the flag went up and it was the second spot kick of the game. It was Gormley against McGrath and the Glenavon keeper came out on top with a superb save to his left.
In the next attack Gormley was in again but the busy McGrath denied him with another great save.
The woodwork denied Winchester from making it all square on 57 minutes and a minute later Glenavon doubled their lead. Braniff again was the creator and Bradley nipped in ahead of the defender to beat Cherrie at the near post.
Cliftonville had hardly time to recover when Glenavon grabbed a third after a lovely worked move as Martyn pulled the ball back for Braniff and he drilled the ball home.
Cliftonville pulled a goal back with 11 minutes to go with Marty Donnelly brilliantly chipping McGrath and it was game on. Then on 82 minutes a routine win for the visitors suddenly changed as Knowles curled a low drive home to make it 3-2.
It was a nervous last few minutes but Glenavon held out for a huge win which puts them three points behind the Reds in joint fifth spot with the Glens.
Glenavon: McGrath, Kelly, Kilmartin, Bradley, Patton, McGrory, Marshall, Braniff, Martyn, Elebert, Singleton.
Subs: Neill, Lindsay, O’Brien, Drylie, Lynch.