United went first-footing at Gresty Road as they welcomed in the New Year with an away trip to face high-flying Crewe Alexandra.
United boss Chris Beech went with the eleven who had finished the game at Walsall as his starters, with Loft stepping in for Scougall.
It was tight through the opening exchanges, with both sides trying to utilise the flanks, and it was a run from Thomas which earned him a free kick on the left wing when he was chopped to the floor. His delivery was excellent, but the red wall stood strong and the inswinger was cleared.
A low delivery from Gethin Jones followed through what was a good spell for the away side, as he and McKirdy harried Adebisi to regain possession. Wintle stepped in to make a clearance, and Crewe went on a break.
Powell was at the spearhead of that, and he cut inside before unleashing a powerful thunderbolt at the top corner. Collin dived high to save it, and the back line did well as Kirk tried to recover it and send it back into the mix.
United had more defending to do when Ainley used trickery to create space on the edge of the area. Hayden blocked the cross and Iredale threw himself in front of Kirk when the forward wound himself up for a follow-up effort.
The hosts took the lead on 17 minutes when Green rode a challenge before clipping a deft cross into the six-yard area. Ainley had matched the run stride for stride and Collin could do nothing as he powered a close-range header into the back of the net.
A lapse of concentration in the Carlisle midfield midway through the half allowed Anene to steal possession before sending Lowery on the overlap. A cut back sat up in front of Ainley but he got his bearings wrong as he dragged a poor effort wide of the upright.
Crewe doubled the lead on 26 minutes when Lowery somehow wound his way from the touchline into a dangerous area. His pass to Ainley was touched beyond the back line to Powell and the nippy winger slotted a rifled shot through the legs of the advancing Adam Collin and into the waiting net.
Alex got themselves a three-goal cushion on 31 minutes when a long ball forward caused problems for the Blues. Daniel Powell bundled his way through to get a vital first touch and he readjusted quickly to smash an unstoppable thunderbolt past the stranded keeper.
Crewe looked confident and Anene made if four for the home side when he rolled his man on the edge of the area, with Ainley once again having provided an assist. The spin from the striker created the space he needed and the top corner bulged as he rattled the ball past the dive from Collin.
The Blues had half a sight of the target on 39 minutes when McKirdy chased down a ball over the top. His delivery bounced up off the surface and it was just too high for Hope as he stretched to try to make it count.
Midfielder Mike Jones was close to threading the eye of a needle in time added on for the first half when he dinked a ball into the box for Hope to get after. Keeper Will Jaaskelainen bided his time before moving across to claim it.
Nathan Thomas tried his luck with a shot from distance at the start of the second period, but it was too close to Jaaskelainen and he was able to gather it up.
Ainley had a volley at the other end from a similar long distance, after a half clearance from a Kirk cross came his way, but Collin was also well-placed to calm things down.
Substitute Jack Bridge got wide to make room for a low cross but it skipped across the face of goal and rolled behind for a goal kick. Mike Jones then brought McKirdy into the equation as a poor clearance came his way, but his shot angled over the bar.
It was much better from United, and Jaaskelainen had to tip a dipper from Thomas over as he tried to find the roof of the net. The Blues stayed forward in numbers as the corner was guided away from the box, and the home stopper was needed again when Sagaf tried to find the bottom corner from over 30-yards away. A firm hand diverted it behind.
The positive second half response got the goal it deserved on 56 minutes when Iredale stunned the crowd with a wonderful finish. He wound his left boot up and let fly and Jaaskelainen could do nothing as it flew past him.
Carlisle looked a completely different and more confident team and a deflection from a Bridge cross was a whisker away from going in as it dropped out of the sky and just over the bar.
Crewe struggled to get out of their own half, as wave after wave of attacks came from the visitors, and a string of corners fowllowed with efforts from Mike Jones and Nathan Thomas charged down before they could trouble the target.
Teenager Taylor Charters came on to make his first appearance for the club with 15 minutes left to play, as he replaced Mo Sagaf, who had failed to shake off a niggle following a tussle with Owen Dale.
Powell blazed over from 30-yards and then from inside the box as the Alex started to get forward more through the closing stages, and Ng put a shot on the run right at Collin as he broke through from deep.
Collin did well to parry a grasscutter from Anene as he saw it late, and Webster had to react quickly to get it to safety before any of the red shirts in the box could get a boot to it.
There was a brief scramble at the other end when Charters squeezed past his man to put the ball in, but the keeper was shielded and he was able to pick it up.
Olomola earned his side a corner when his shot from the edge of the area took a deflection, but Crewe cleared their lines and that was that from what had been a much improved second half display from the away side.
Crewe Alexandra - Ainley (17), Powell (26, 31), Anene (34)
Carlisle United - Iredale (56)
Crewe Alexandra - Dale (72)
Carlisle United - Sagaf (24), Loft (30)
Crewe Alexandra - Jaaskelainen (gk), Ng (c), Wintle, Powell, Kirk (Dale 59), Ainley (Finney 79), Green, Hunt, Lowery, Anene, Adebisi. Subs - Richards (gk), J Jones, Sass-Davies, Johnson, Mbulu.
Carlisle United - Collin (gk)(c), G Jones, Hayden, Webster, Iredale, Thomas, Sagaf (Charters 74), M Jones, McKirdy, Hope (Bridge 46), Loft (Olomola 65). Subs - Gray (gk), Mellish, Birch, Lightfoot.
Referee - John Busby
Assistant Referee 1 - Gareth Mellor
Assistant Referee 2 - David Plowright
Fourth Official - Ravel Cheosiaua
Attendance - 4,316 (463 away fans)