Chris Porter’s fourth Sky Bet League Two goal of the season secured a 1-1 draw for second-placed Crewe at fellow high flyers Cheltenham to keep the pressure on leaders Exeter.
The away side had to play for the last 20 minutes with 10 men after captain Perry Ng was sent off.
Porter’s goal in the first minute of first-half stoppage time cancelled out Gavin Reilly’s early strike for Cheltenham.
On-Loan Bristol Rovers striker Reilly struck in the ninth minute after Will Jaaskelainen saved Jacob Greaves’ header from a Chris Hussey corner and Nicky Hunt’s attempted clearance was charged down and flew into the net.
Crewe’s leveller was a well-worked move involving Tom Lowery and Harry Pickering, with Porter applying the finishing touch low past Scott Flinders at the near post.
Reilly drew a low parry from Jaaskelainen in the 59th minute before Crewe scrambled the ball to safety.
Luke Varney missed a good chance against his old club in the 61st minute following a ball in from Sean Long, but his effort sailed wide.
Ng was dismissed in the 70th minute for second yellow card and Ryan Broom was denied by Jaaskelainen late on after Alex Addai’s cross as Crewe held out for a point and the hosts remain third as a result.