Joe Garner returned to the starting line up for the visit of Crawley having been cup-tied for the Capital One Cup game on Wednesday and that meant a return to the bench for loan signing Kallum Higginbotham.
It was to be a frustrating day for the home side though as they mastered the blustery conditions to dominate for long spells only to be undone by two second half goals which left them with nothing to show for their efforts.
"We've probably created more chances today than we have for a long while," assistant manager Graham Kavanagh said. "It's very frustrating because we've got the ball wide and we've got at them, but we just couldn't get it over the line. There are plenty of positives for us to take and it's good that we can get back out there on Tuesday night and try to get ourselves going again."
United started brightly and a cross from McGovern took the slightest of touches from Garner. The ball bounced beyond the last defender but it spun away from Robson as he tried to apply the finishing touch.
The home side could have taken the lead on 15 minutes when McGovern sent a deep free kick into the area. Cadamarteri peeled away from his man and tried to angle his header over Paul Jones and it was frustration for Garner and Livesey as the ball fell onto the roof of the net as they ran into good positions.
James Berrett was next to test the keeper when he let a volley go from distance. A parried save from Jones was recovered by Robson and Garner had three swipes at a volley as he fell to the ground.
Crawley showed as an attacking force moments later when Alexander chested a high pass on the edge of the box. He connected with a fierce left foot volley but Gillespie was well placed to smother it.
The chance of the first half came on 25 minutes when Robson raced clear on the left flank. His cut back was perfect for Garner but he miscued his volley and dragged it well wide.
Cadamarteri twisted and turned by the corner flag as the blue shirts kept the pressure on and his chipped cross was met by Garner on the near post. Jones took a step to his left and comfortably gathered the ball.
More good football put Cadamarteri through once more and Garner was left to wheel away in frustration as he glanced another misguided header past the upright having done the hard work to lose his marker.
Matt Robson blazed a 35-yard free kick over the bar as United finished the first half on top but Paul Thirlwell had to drop deep to get a touch on a Simpson cross when Akpan arrived late in the area.
Carlisle came out fired up after the break and a fizzed cross from Robson found Garner with his back to goal. He set it up for Cadamarteri but it was on his left foot and he crunched his first time shot into the stands.
Crawley started to get into the game and a neat delivery from Jones needed good hands from Gillespie as he came off his line. Nicky Adams then sent a tame shot at the keeper when he had options to his right with Ajose on the overlap.
A sloppy period of play then led to a goal when Chantler took a heavy touch inside his own half. Nathan Byrne was on to it and he strode forward to finish expertly from the edge of the box.
United huffed and puffed and a long range dipper from Garner had to be touched behind as Jones scrambled across to cover it. Peter Murohy nodded the ball wide from a testing McGovern delivery.
Disaster struck for a second time on 73 minutes when Nicky Adams tried a shot from nothing from half way inside the Carlisle half. It hit Livesey and looped wickedly into the air before dropping agonisingly over the stretch from the keeper and into the back of the net.
A Simek cross found Garner in a good area as the clock ticked down but he sent his header right at Jones when a yard either side would have brought him the goal he had worked for.
Substitute Liam Noble almost grabbed a late consolation but Jones leaped across to cover his angles as he touched the 30-yard effort away for a corner.
And the final action of the day came when a mix-up at the back allowed Akpan to stab the ball goalwards. There was relief all round when it bobbled harmlessly wide of the target.
"We could say the same thing over and over but it's a game we felt we could have won," captain Paul Thirlwell said. "If you don't take your chances you leave yourself open, but the good thing is that we can get back to it right away on Monday as we prepare for the game at Bury. No defeat is good but we can take positives from this one as we go forward, and that's important for us."
Crawley - Byrne (61), Adams (73)
United - Livesey (38)
Crawley - Akpan (90)
Carlisle United - Gillespie, Simek, Livesey, Murphy, Chantler, McGovern (Higginbotham 64), Thirlwell (Noble 64), Berrett, Robson, Garner, Cadamarteri (Beck 76). Subs - Collin, Edwards, Potts, Symington.
Crawley Town - Jones, Sadler, Akpan, Alexander, Simpson, Walsh, Ajose (Forte 88), Adams, Byrne, Jones (Bulman 84), Davis. Subs - Connolly, Clarke, Torres, Hunt, Kuipers.
Referee - Mr Mark Heywood
Attendance - 4,221 (146 away fans)