United returned to action for the first time in exactly 28 days on Saturday afternoon having lost fixtures to rain, snow, ice and a 10-day Covid isolation period along the way.
New signing Offrande Zanzala was straight into the starting eleven to make his debut and the enforced break meant that Jon Mellish and JJ Kayode had recovered fully from their respective niggles, and Mellish was straight back into the fold in his usual box-to-box role.
The teams felt each other out through the early exchanges but a misplaced pass in the United half allowed the Grecians to earn a corner. The training ground routine was snuffed out when Farman came off his line to gather.
A long throw from Alessandra at the other end was cleared by Atangana but it was chested down by Riley as he lurked on the edge of the box. A 20-yard snapshot followed but he couldn't keep it down and it whistled over the bar.
Alessandra tried the same moments later, this time with a throw from the right hand side of the pitch, and it was Guy who picked up the loose ball on this occasion. He put his left boot through it but it headed off into the Waterworks End.
The Blues took the lead on nine minutes with a superb move which saw Armer clip a ball over the top for Alessandra to chase. He beat the offside trap with his movement and a rolled delivery across the face of goal eventually came to Patrick, who did well to spin away from Key before looping a pass back towards the far stick. Alessandra was on hand to bag number seven of the season with an unstoppable volley.
United were up for it and a turn from Mellish, after he received a pass from Guy, saw him run into space before sending Patrick into the box. The forward twisted and turned but his initial cross was blocked. He let fly as it came back his way but Parkes got his body in the way.
Carlisle had three consecutive corners to defend as Exeter pushed forward but they coped comfortably, with some strong clearances to keep the strikers at bay.
Long throws from Alessandra were a real tease and another drifting launch brought a weak headed response from Parkes which Patrick liked the look of. He struck it first time but it was always on the rise.
The Grecians tried to probe, but they came up against a stubborn blue wall as Guy, Bennett and Hayden completed timely clearances.
A home corner was whipped in by Guy on the half hour as the home side came again and Mellish glanced it onwards with a leap at the front post. Collins got in the way before Riley could turn it into anything meaningful.
Exeter registered their first shot in anger on 42 minutes when a cross into the box was cleared by Bennett. It struck Law, and the rebound off him invited a shot from Bowman as it came his way on the penalty spot. He connected cleanly, but he couldn't keep it down.
The visitors shouted for a penalty with two minutes on the second half clock when Law tumbled to the floor as a cross came in. The referee waved it away straight away, despite the loud appeals.
A corner for the black shirts followed as Hayden stopped Jay in his tracks, and a goal bound header from Parkes had to be guided behind as the delivery went deep.The second corner was well dealt with as it also angled long.
It was a strong start to the second period from the Grecians and another corner was cleared with close attention from Mellish. His pass forward was clipped on by Patrick but it was just too far in front of Zanzala.
United tested the back line with a free kick from Guy which Hayden nodded back into the mix. It had to be hooked out of the danger area as Riley steamed in.
Former Blue Ryan Bowman had a goal chalked off for offside when he finished from close range following good work from Law and Sweeney. The midfielder had worked an opening then mishit a shot, and the celebrations started as the ball bulged the net. The assistant referee took an age to make his decision, but he eventually raised his flag.
Carlisle captain Nick Anderton found the back of the net at the other end when Andresson fumbled as the pair came together to contest a high ball on the goal line. He finished it off but the referee was quick with the whistle on this occasion.
Skill from Dickenson saw him shield a bouncing ball before moving off his marker towards the byline. A cross from nothing was just an inch in front of Kayode as he tried to get something on it.
United almost hit on the break when Mellish intelligently cleared a corner for Dickenson to chase. He bided his time, but his switch in play was cut out as three came in support.
Alessandra drilled one over the bar from the edge of the box when a scuffed clearance bobbled his way, but there was concern as Armer and Bowman tangled with just over 15 minutes left to play. The defender needed treatment, but gingerly returned to the action.
It stayed tight, with goalmouth action at a premium, but a scramble in the box saw Ethan Walker pull wide with the ball at his feet. His cut back was rattled into Sweeney, and the promising move was brought to a close with the defender poleaxed on the floor.
Carlisle missed a great chance to wrap the points up when a fizzed corner found Dickenson unmarked and just five yards out. His header went high and he was left with his head in his hands.
Farman had to get off his line to gather low when a cross from Caprice caused issues. The keeper was alert and he did his job well.
Exeter threw everyone forward in time added on but Carlisle refused to wilt and they saw it through to take their hard-earned three points, with a save from Andresson from a Guy free kick the final act of the day.
Carlisle United - Alessandra (9)
Carlisle United - Anderton (90)
Exeter City - Parkes (83)
Carlisle United - Farman, Armer, Hayden, Bennett, Anderton (c), Riley, Mellish (Charters 90), Guy, Alessandra (Walker 82), Zanzala (Dickenson 55), Patrick (Kayode 55). Subs - Norman (gk), Furman, Toure.
Exeter City - Andresson, Sparkes, Atangana (Taylor 79), Law (c), Collins, Bowman, Parkes, Jay (Caprice 79), Page (Fisher 90), Sweeney, Key (Seymour 85). Subs - Maxted (gk), McArdle, Seymour, Hartridge.
Referee - Martin Coy
Assistant Referee 1 - Conor Brown
Assistant Referee 2 - Scott Williams
Fourth Official - Simon Clayton
Attendance - BCD