The Blues faced their longest away trip of the season on Saturday as they headed to Crawley for a game against another in-form side.
United were without central defender Rod McDonald, who missed out with a groin injury picked up in training on Thursday, and that meant a first league start for Rhys Bennett who had made his full debut in midweek in the Papa John's Trophy.
Josh Kayode was back from international duty and he replaced Omari Patrick in the starting eleven, with Gime Toure also back from a three-game suspension picked up in the away game at Exeter.
Carlisle started well with an attack from the kick off which took Toure into the box. He beat one, but Hessenthaler was back to block the cross.
The Cumbrians stayed forward, with Alessandra and Toure lively, and Riley and Mellish backed up a very positive opening spell as the away side looked to stay on the front-foot.
A huge kick from Farman caused all kinds of problems on the quarter hour when it bounced off the surface and into the box. Kayode was sniffing for pieces so McNerny went for safety first as he cleared it behind for a corner.
Strong defending from Anderton stopped Allarakhia from spinning into a shooting position as Crawley enjoyed a decent spell, and Farman saved from Nichols when the striker was played clean through moments later. The flag was up for offside but the stopper wasn't to know that, and he spread himself to make a fine block.
United thought they'd taken the lead midway through the half when Alessandra recovered a half-cleared Guy corner. Anderton called for it, and his cross on the run was glanced away from Hayden's head. Kayode poked at the bounce and it was going in until Morris threw a hand out. The ball seemed to stick and he was able to drop quickly before the striker could follow up.
Nichols had half a sight as Hesketh pulled a ball back at the other end, but his header was high and Farman claimed it. Carlisle were up in numbers and another corner teaser came the way of Alessandra. His rasping 20-yard volley was blocked as it angled towards the target.
Excellent football from United saw Anderton, Alessandra and Toure carve their way through a static defence, and Mellish showed with his back to goal inside the area. His lay-off for Riley was near perfect, but Craig stepped in to make the tackle before he could shoot.
Kayode pulled wide as the away side hunted in packs and he bundled his way through a clumsy challenge. Alessandra wanted it, and his fierce effort whistled just the wrong side of the upright as he let fly from 19-yards.
Farman showed good judgement between his own sticks when a Powell free kick bent his way. A two-handed punch relieved the pressure.
United broke at pace with Mellish, and Toure took over on the left flank when he angled away from his man. More neat passes were exchanged and Alessandra, at the heart of it once again, spotted Riley as he made his way into a good position. The shooting chance fizzled out, but Alessandra was there to call for it as Guy regained possession. The striker kept his effort low but Morris watched it all the way.
More industrious work from Toure took him past two challenges, but his driven cross from a tight angle was too close to the Crawley stopper.
The goal the Carlisle play deserved finally came just ahead of the break when another patient approach towards the target saw Alessandra and Anderton feint to shoot. They invited Toure to take over, and his low effort was parried by Morris. Bennett pounced, but he was twice thwarted by the keeper with close range efforts. The big defender kept his concentration and, as the ball squirmed free, he marked his first league start with a tap into the waiting net. That, incidentally, was his first goal since September 2018.
Nichols popped a header wide from a Nadesan delivery deep into time added for the half, and it was the visitors who had the lead as they headed into the team talks.
It was a feisty start to the second 45 minutes, with both sides showing a full-blooded side to their game, and there was little to be found in the way of space as a consequence. An Anderton shot was charged down as he tried to go for glory, and Allarakhia spooned one wide for Crawley as he tried to take matters into his own hands.
Alertness from Farman saw him close Nadesan down when the forward tried to pounce on a back pass, but it was United who celebrated when Tanner left a defender in his wake with a superb touch. His near post cross found Kayode, who crunched an unstoppable volley into the net - adding to his first international goal for Ireland under-21s against Luxembourg to make it a memorable week.
Kayode almost turned provider when he stepped away from a sliding challenge. He looked up and swept the ball low, but there was nobody there to finish it off.
It was all about the away team and Riley spread the play with Alessandra heading off on a run. The cross took a deflection and Sesay had to guide it behind. The corner from Guy caught Morris in no man's land and Hayden's header was going in until Sesay stopped it on the line. Riley tried to loop the returning header over the keeper but it dropped onto the roof of the net.
Carlisle built up a three-goal cushion through vice-captain Aaron Hayden as a blocked volley spun to Alessandra. He hooked it back into the box and Hayden had the gift of an open target, after Mellish had been involved, which he wasn't about to pass up. He steadied himself before sending it over the line.
The Cumbrians were first to every ball and the stronger in the tackle as they dictated the play, and a long Kayode throw caught everyone by surprise as it zipped through bodies. Toure tried to get a touch as Morris looked on in relief.
Substitute Omari Patrick was close with his first touch as Riley helped Alessandra on his way. A neat cut back had Patrick's name all over it until Sesay slid in to punt it over his own bar.
A bad afternoon got worse for the Red Devils with 10 minutes to go when Patrick broke through on the sprint. David Sesay had to bring the forward down as he beat the last challenge, and the referee had no hesitation in pulling out the red card.
Nick Anderton's free kick took a deflection, and the left back had another volley blocked when the corner flicked his way. Joe Riley put a snapshot right at Morris as the Blues kept pushing, and a mesmerising run from Anderton saw him wind a way into the box. His cut back was aimed at Kayode but Powell got it away.
Crawley just couldn't find any purchase, and United greeted the final whistle with clenched fists after what had been their most complete performance in a season that has already served up some exciting days.
Carlisle United - Bennett (42), Kayode (55), Hayden (62)
Crawley Town - Sesay sent off (80)
Carlisle United - Guy (78)
Crawley Town - Morris, Doherty, McNerny, Powell, Nadesan, Davies (Sesay 46), Nichols, Craig, Allarakhia (Frost 73), Hesketh, Hessenthaler (Watters 65). Subs - Dallison, Ashford, Galach, Nelson.
Carlisle United - Farman, Tanner, Hayden, Bennett, Anderton (c), Riley (Armer 90), Guy, Mellish (Devine 90), Alessandra (Reilly 90), Toure (Patrick 76), Kayode. Subs - Norman (gk), Hunt, Obiero.
Referee - Antony Coggins
Assistant Referee 1 - Stephen Brown
Assistant Referee 2 - Michael Chard
Fourth Official - Stuart Butler
Attendance - BCD