United were unchanged for their home game with high-flying Exeter City from their feisty away day at Tranmere the weekend before.
Morgan Feeney was captain for the first time at the start of a game on his own turf, with the team knowing they needed a high tempo start.
The Grecians had lost just twice this calendar year heading into the contest, but the hosts were also enjoying a decent run having lost just two of their last nine outings.
There was an early chance for the visitors when a misplaced pass was snaffled up by Jevani Brown deep inside the home half. He bounced it off Dieng and he suddenly had just Howard to beat. The stopper was off his line quickly to make the block. The loose ball fell kindly for Brown to volley but it took a deflection and dipped over the bar.
Another Brown inspired attack brought Dieng into play on the edge of the area but he was closed down by Devine and his snapshot spun away into the Warwick. A drilled corner was met on the full by Sweeney but he couldn't keep it down.
It was a good opening from the away team, but Dieng was guilty of being wasteful once again when he rifled high on the run with 10 minutes on the clock.
United almost made an impact when Devine won a tackle in the centre circle. Gibson floated it forward, but Key stuck out a leg before Patrick could connect.
Exeter sprang on the counter and Dieng found a pocket of space as he moved forward. His shot hit Simeu and angled just past the upright.
Archie Collins tried to take Howard by surprise with an attempt to find the top corner from a very tight angle when he stood over a free kick, but it hit the woodwork and ricocheted behind.
A Feeney volley on the turn was stopped at source when he got on the end of a Dickenson long throw at the other end, but Carlisle had more defending to do as Exeter broke in numbers. An overlap from Jay on the right flank allowed Brown to ghost in, but he missed his touch and the chance to pull the trigger was gone.
Another Dickenson long throw caused problems as it was nodded high into the air. Mellor kept it alive as it bounced, and Patrick was able to turn smartly before trying his luck from just inside the area. Dawson dropped low to gather it in.
It was a better spell for the Blues and Dickenson delivered as Patrick and Dennis peeled away from their markers. It had too much on it and Dawson was happy to see it behind.
Matt Jay tried his luck from distance when the Grecians came again and Howard dived late to get hands to it. He did enough to push it out of harm's way. Brown wasted no time with the corner, and Howard had to tip over as Dieng sent a thunderbolt of a header at the roof of the net.
Zanzala stretched to meet a cross from Jay in time added on for the half but it was too far beyond his leap and he could do nothing with it, with the teams heading up the tunnel locked at all-square.
Tobi Sho-Silva was on for Kristian Dennis when the teams came back out, and there was an early chance as a throw from Mellor was only half cleared. Mellish came under pressure as he put his boot through it and it sailed high into the sky.
There was a wonderful save from Howard on 52 minutes after Exeter had worked their way into the area with a slick passing move. Jay touched it off for Dieng to hit from 14-yards out but the keeper dived to make a fantastic and important connection.
Tenacity from Sho-Silva earned his side a corner as the Blues responded, and Mellish was a whisker away from getting to the drilled delivery from Dickenson.
Exeter substitute Padraig Amond headed over from a Dieng outswinger following what had been a tight spell, and Devine had to track back to guide the ball behind from a Key cross as the visitors broke the lines with an overload. Stubbs popped the resulting corner over the bar.
Jordan Gibson tested the visiting defence with a wicked free kick with just under 20 minutes left to go, and Stubbs had to get in the way before Feeney could make a mark.
Gibson sent the corner in and Mellor went one way, then the other, after Roberts had calmly controlled. Dawson did well to get a hand to a goal bound toe poke.
Coley took a tumble as he was played clean through shortly after coming on, as Exeter countered, and he beat the floor in frustration at not having made more of the opening.
Chances were few and far between through the closing stages, but the hosts were undone by a deep corner on 89 minutes when a nod back into the mix found the blue shirts static. That left Amond with the simple task of prodding the late winner over the line.
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Exeter City - Amond (89)
Carlisle United - Gibson (19), Mellish (48), Dickenson (55), Simeu (83)
Carlisle United - Howard, Mellor, Simeu, McDonald, Feeney (c), Dickenson (Roberts 70), Devine, Mellish, Gibson, Dennis (Sho-Silva 46), Patrick (Toure 81). Subs - Norman, Riley, Whelan, Omotoye.
Exeter City - Dawson, Sparkes (Caprice 78), Stubbs, Jay (c) (Coley 78), Collins, Key, Dieng, Zanzala (Amond 58), Brown, Sweeney, Hartridge. Subs - Brown (gk), Phillips, Rowe, Diabate.
Referee - Tom Nield
Assistant Referee 1 - Simon Clayton
Assistant Referee 2 - Ivan Stankovic
Fourth Official - Graeme Fyvie
Observer - Graham Salisbury
Attendance - 5,132 (403)