Goals from Aaron Burns and Andy Waterworth blew the Danske Premiership title race wide open at Seaview today.
David Healy’s boys produced a battling performance to reel in vital three points which takes them within four of Crusaders at the top of the table.
But the game was not without controversy. Healy was dismissed by referee Raymond Hetherington for ‘entering the field of play’ after trying to stop the game due to a head injury to Stephen Lowry.
It led to a mass brawl in front of the Linfield dugout involving every player on the pitch. Hetherington, then sent off Blues skipper Jamie Mulgrew for his part in the incident.
It was hardly surprising, Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter named the same team that demolished Cliftonville in the big Boxing Day showdown.
Following his team’s disappointing Big Two draw with rivals Glentoran, Blues boss David Healy wielded the axe, introducing 20 year old Jonny Frazer, Matthew Clarke and Mark Stafford for Kirk Millar, Chris Casement and the injured Sean Ward.
Aaron Burns shot the Blues into a 35th minute lead when he danced his way into the Crusaders penalty area before firing an unstoppable drive past Sean O’Neill.
And it got even better for the Blues five minutes later when Andy Watereworth capitalised on a howler from Michael Gault and O’Neill to poke the Blues two in front.
Following Mulgrew’s dismissal, it was hardly surprising the Crues went for broke and they were rewarded 18 minutes from time when Jordan Owens headed home a Gavin Whyte cross.
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Burns, Beverland, Gault, McClean (Mitchell 92), Caddell (Lowry 54), Forsythe, Carvill (Cushley 46), Owens, Heatley, Whyte.
Unused subs: Clarke, Dougherty.
LINFIELD: Carroll, Staffford, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth (Waterworth 89), Lowry, Burns, Clarke, Mulgrew, Frazer (Casement 63), Quinn6.
Unused subs: Bright, Millar, Fallon.
REFEREE: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon) 6.