A brilliant first-half goal by Joe Gormley gave champions Cliftonville a hard-fought win over plucky Portadown.
The Ports - again without five first teamers – gave it all they had and an equaliser based on their second half display would not have been out of place.
But a couple of top-drawer saves by Conor Devlin denied them against a side that gave the Ports a much tougher outing than Linfield whom they beat 3-0 on Saturday.
Portadown came within a whisker of an opener on six minutes when 18 year-old rookie Jordan Lyttle powered in on a Chris Casement corner and headed inches over the bar.
It was a wake-up call for the Solitude men and on 13 minutes George McMullan rounded off a great move when his shot was narrowly deflected past an upright.
It was all action midway through the half, firstly with Portadown’s David Miskelly pulling off a super save from a Martin Donnelly stinger, and Peter McMahon shooting narrowly over at the opposite end.
Cliftonville, who had been playing the more productive football, deservedly went ahead on 36 minutes with a Joe Gormley classic. But it was the determination of David McDaid that created the opening – he outwitted a couple of defenders and laid on a perfect pass for the striker to crash home hard and low.
Gormley almost added his second with a superb effort eight minutes after the restart. He ran onto a loose ball down the left, let rip with his right foot but Miskelly stood firm and fisted it out of danger.
Cliftonville keeper Conor Devlin had an inspired few minutes when he saved bravely and brilliantly at the feet of Hary Twigg and the parried another from young Conaty – and the lively Ports frankly deserved an equaliser.
At the other end Miskelly matched Devlin’s brilliance with a superb stop with his feet from McDaid, the number 9 was sent through by the dynamic midfield duo of Ryan Catney and Barry Johnston who created the classic one-on-one with Miskelly the victor.
PORTADOWN- Miskelly, Casement, Redman, O’Hara, McMahon, Mackle, McAllister, Mouncey, Twigg, Garrett, Lyttle. Subs- Brennan, Richardson, Conaty (for Mouncy 45), Soares (for McMahon 84), McMahon
CLIFTONVILLE- Devlin, Johnston, Flynn, McMullan, McDaid, Donnelly, Seydak, Smyth, Catney, Curran, Gormley. Subs- Winchester, Garrett (for Donnelly 78), Knowles, Murray (for McDaid 88), Caldwell.
Referee- C Burns