It was another tough test for the Blues on Saturday afternoon as Crewe Alexandra, who were enjoying a good start to the season, brought a four-game unbeaten run to Brunton Park.
United went into it in a confident mood, having dominated last weekend's game against high-flying Newport, but they knew that they needed to find consistency in performances and results if they were going to mount a serious effort at a surge up the table.
Striker Hallam Hope turned down the opportunity to play for Barbados, choosing instead to stay in Cumbria to play his part in Saturday's game, and a further boost was received with a return to the match day 18 for midfielder Stefan Scougall, back from an eight-game injury lay-off.
United kicked towards the Warwick Road End in the first half, having been made to make the switch after the toss of the coin, and Collin was immediately tested when a high cross from Ng caught in the wind. It dipped wickedly and the keeper had to readjust so that he could pull it into his chest.
More good visiting work saw Powell overlap before crossing low into the box and Knight-Percival did well to get in the way before Porter could shoot.
The Alex were gifted an opening on six minutes when Collin rolled the ball out to Mike Jones, who was stood on the edge of the box. His first time pass skewed off his boot and found the grateful Powell, and he let loose with a fierce drive. The stopper was well positioned to gather it in.
But it was a set piece that was the undoing for the hosts when Lowery floated a dangerous delivery into the area from the right hand touchline. Webster jumped as he tried to sweep it away but his touch left Nicky Hunt with the relatively simple task of smashing the loose ball into the waiting net.
Webster sent a header from a Bridge cross over the bar as Carlisle looked to get themselves going, but it was the Alex who went close again when Lowery and Ng combined with skill out on the right. A measured cross fell to Green, and he cushioned it for Pickering to volley. The connection was strong but Collin was able to watch it wide.
Carlisle started to get men forward with more purpose and strength from Sagaf saw him come away with possession following a tussle in midfield. Iredale pulled into space, but his cut back was hooked clear by Nolan. Olomola stuck a leg out but the rebound spun away from the nets.
Striker Hallam Hope then sent a low drive straight at Richards, when he bent his run from the left wing, but it was Crewe who celebrated again when a back heel from Bridge, deep inside the away half, was snaffled up quickly by the left back.
The break was on, and Kirk popped a slide rule pass into the path of the surging Danny Powell. He brought the away contingent to its feet with a stunning shot on the run which whisked past Collin and into the top corner.
United had a half chance when an Elliott free kick from the half way line was volleyed by Iredale. It skipped across the face of goal but it had too much on it for Hope to be able to do anything other than guide it beyond the upright.
It was a tough first half for United and they had two shots blocked, one from Bridge and the other from Hope, as they tried to make an impact, but the Alex kept things compact as they saw it through to half time with a two-goal advantage.
A shot from Pickering was well handled by Collin when it fizzed its way into his hands at the start of the second half, and the same happened to a cruncher from Olomola when he tried his luck from distance at the other end.
United saw plenty of the ball through the next 10 minutes, without quite managing to find a way through, but that changed just before the hour when substitute Stefan Scougall split the defence with a neat pass. Iredale looked up as he raced into the area and he put it on a plate for forward Hallam Hope as he slid in to register his first league goal of the season.
That lit the blue touch paper and another cross from Iredale found its way through bodies to the back post, where Christie Elliott was lurking. He had time to think about it and he made no mistake as he placed a right footed volley underneath Richards as he spread himself to try to make the save.
The good work was undone on 78 minutes when a clipped ball into the box found the predatory Chris Porter on the run. He doesn’t turn these opportunities down and he found the back of the net with ease as he shrugged off the attentions of his marker.
Worse was to come for the home side when another cross into the box was allowed to bounce up in front of the target. Defender Gethin Jones had to put something on it, and he could only watch in agony as it came off his boot and spooned into the net.
Carlisle United - Hope (59), Elliott (64)
Crewe Alexandra - Hunt (7), Powell (27), Porter (78), G Jones (og 85)
Crewe Alexandra - Nolan (86)
Carlisle United - Collin (gk) (c), G Jones, Webster, Knight-Percival (Mellish 46), Elliott, Bridge (Scougall 52), M Jones, Sagaf (McKirdy 80), Iredale, Hope, Olomola. Subs - Gray, Branthwaite, Loft, Sorensen.
Crewe Alexandra - Richards(gk), Ng (c), Pickering, Wintle, Nolan, Powell (Dale 89), Porter, Kirk, Green (J Jones 70), Hunt, Lowery. Subs - Booth (gk), Ainley, Finney, Anene, Johnson.
Referee – Darren England
Assistant Referee 1 – Philip Dermott
Assistant Referee 2 – James Mainwaring
Fourth Official – Nick Greenhalgh
Attendance - 4,521 (465 away fans)