Crusaders eventually saw off Newry City AFC at a rain-soaked Showgrounds - but they were made to work hard for it by the well-organised home side.
City were better before the break then Rory Patterson converted a disputed penalty shortly after the restart ahead of Paul Heatley’s late brace.
City had two good chances within 60 seconds when Harry Doherty was forced into two scrambling stops - the first off Stephen Hughes before the subsequent corner-kick led to a Declan Carville effort.
Stephen Teggart also tested Doherty but Crusaders almost went in front when Heatley’s poked effort beat Steven Maguire - but Dale Montgomery was on hand to clear off the line.
Newry then spurned a gilt-edged opportunity off a slick counter-attack just a minute before half-time.
Mark Hughes’ ball out of defence found his brother Stephen midway inside the Crues half and, as he broke clear, he played a clever one-two with Teggart to burst into the penalty area.
As Doherty advanced, Hughes skipped round the keeper and tried to pull the ball back for Teggart to sidefoot home. However, Howard Beverland got there in the nick of time to nick the ball off the youngster’s toe and put it out for a corner.
But it was Stephen Baxter’s side who went in front just three minutes after the restart. Patterson went down in the box under Paddy Mooney’s challenge and referee Tony Clarke pointed to the spot.
Patterson dusted himself down to send Maguire the wrong way and make it 1-0.
Newry then had a big shout for a penalty of their own on 69 minutes when Mark McCabe went down in the box - but this time Clarke waved away the appeals.
The result was then put beyond doubt 12 minutes from time when John Boyle’s misplaced header fell straight into the path of Heatley and he slotted home through Maguire’s legs from 15 yards.
Heatley then added insult to Newry injury in stoppage time with the third to put a gloss on the scoreline for defending champions Crusaders.
Newry City AFC: Maguire, McArdle, Montgomery, Mooney, Boyle, McCann (Lavery, 73), S Hughes, Teggart, Carville, McCabe (Noonan, 81), M Hughes
Subs (not used): Hunter, McCaul, Johnston, Mullen, Healy.
Crusaders: Doherty, McChrystal, Beverland, K Owens, Ward, Caddell (Lowry, 81), Carvill, Forsythe, Heatley, Patterson (J Owens, 66), Clarke (Snoddy, 90+1)
Subs (not used): O’Neill, Cushley, Ruddy, Brown.
Referee: Tony Clarke.