It was goals galore at Mourneview Park with Crusaders consolidating their place at the top of the league by hitting Glenavon for a magnificent seven.
Although it wasn’t a total disaster for Glenavon, who scored three of their own - Coleraine’s failure to win at Glentoran means that the Lurgan Blues have virtually secured their place in the top six for the second season in a row, barring a major disaster.
The highlight of the day was a hat trick for Crusaders’s Gavin Whyte, backed up by a brace for Paul Heatley, a Diarmuid O’Carroll penalty and Jordan Owens.
Rhys Marshall, who was also sent off, Ciaran Martyn and a spot kick from Kevin Braniff came in reply for the hosts.
The Crues took a seventh minute lead thanks to Paul Heatley’s 20th goal of the season. A long punt up the field want dealt with by Rhys Marshall as the ball got stuck under him before breaking perfectly for the prolific striker to stroke home.
Glenavon should have equalised through Kevin Braniff five minutes later when a Alan Blayney free kick was knocked on by James Singleton into the striker’s path, but he pulled his effort wide at the near post.
Colin Coates had the ball in the net after 20 minutes when a sublime delivery by Billy Joe Burns found Gavin Whyte. His shot forced a fantastic save from Blayney, but as the Crues skipper slammed the ball home he was deemed to be offside.
Crusaders were breaking better with the ball than Glenavon could and such a venture forward almost led to former Mourneview striker Diarmuid O’Carroll scoring, however he fired wide.
Then a Josh Robinson free was flicked on by Jordan Owens for Heatley to head at goal, only for Blayney to pluck the ball out of the air.
Glenavon pulled level four minutes before the break when a Braniff free kick from the left of the box was headed towards goal by Ciaran Martyn, with Rhys Marshall making sure.
Parity was shortlived, though, with Richard Clarke finding Heatley within a minute of Glenavon’s leveller. His cross beat the entire Glenavon backline and Whyte was in the right place at the right time to restore Crusaders’ lead.
And their lead was doubled shortly after the break. Clarke played a superb ball to catch the Glenavon defence cold and set Heatley through on goal. Marshall chased him down and got he block-tackle in, but as Heatley was getting back around the defender he was clipped and brought down. O’Carroll dispatched the penalty and it was game over for the hosts.
Yet this game had more goals in it and a move down the right started by Burns found Whyte, he pulled back for Owens and it was 4-1.
Then Glenavon pulled one back with the next attack of the game when Winkie Murphy launched a free kick down the throat of the Crues defence - they left it, the ball bounced and Martyn nipped in to head home.
Crusaders made it five - and SIX goals in FIFTEEN minutes - when a Sean O’Neill free kick was poked through by Heatley for Whyte to lob Blayney.
And would you believe it, Glenavon pulled a goal back from the penalty spot when a Ciaran Martyn shot, from a Bradley corner, was handled by Timmy Adamson. Braniff dispatched the spot kick to the goalkeeper’s left, sending him the wrong way.
Then Crusaders made it 6-3, a cross by Burns found Whyte, it crashed off the underside of the crossbar and bounced on the line. It was cleared by the Glenavon defence but linesman Mark O’Brien gave the goal.
In stoppage time they bagged their seventh through Heatley, who followed up after an Owens shot was too hot for Blayney to handle.
GLENAVON: Blayney, McKeown, Murphy, Marshall, Singleton, McGrory, Caldwell, McCabe, Martyn, Braniff, Bradley. Subs: Lindsay (McKeown 62), Kilmartin, Patton, Sykes (Caldwell 78), O’Brien (McCabe 73).
GOALS: Marshall 41, Martyn 55, Braniff 66 (pen)
SENDINGS OFF: Marshall 46
CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Burns, Coates, McLean, Robinson, Clarke, Whyte, Heatley, O’Carroll, Owens, Adamson. Subs: Hanley (Robinson 87), Magowan, Leeman (Whyte 76), O’Flynn (O’Carroll 82), O’Hanlon.
GOALS: Heatley 7, 92; Whyte 42, 56, 73; O’Carroll 47, Owens 51.
REFEREE: Andrew Davey.