GLENTORAN 2 CLIFTONVILLE 0
Cliftonville’s title hopes suffered a festive setback with a 2-0 defeat to Glentoran at The Oval.
Second half goals from Jonathan Smith and Fra McCaffrey did the damage as the Glens emerged with the points in east Belfast.
Smith struck in the 55th minute and substitute McCaffrey added a second in injury time to seal a spirited win for Alan Kernaghan’s side.
The defeat leaves Cliftonville eight points behind Crusaders heading into Boxing Day’s massive north Belfast derby showdown between the sides.
The Glens remain in sixth spot – seven points behind Linfield who they meet at The Oval next Saturday.
Glentoran started brightly and should have taken the lead in the fifth minute, but Curtis Allen could only head Smith’s deep cross over the bar.
Allen got through on goal in the 15th minute, but after latching onto Steven McCullough’s pass the striker’s shot was blocked by Conor Devlin.
Cliftonville grew into the game as the half progressed.
In the 22nd minute Stephen Garrett headed over Marty Donnelly’s free-kick while Chris Curran fired wide of the target.
Curran then tested Elliott Morris with a snap shot in the 38th minute, the Glens goalkeeper doing well to palm the ball to safety.
Glentoran broke the deadlock in the 55th minute courtesy of Smith’s clinical finish.
Barry Holland’s cross was flicked on by Stephen McAlorum, and the ball eventually fell to Smith on the edge of the box who dispatched a right-foot shot into the bottom corner of Devlin’s net.
At the other end Morris did well to deny Reds substitute Jay Donnelly while Garrett’s follow-up shot was blocked.
Holland then fired an effort from distance inches wide of the Cliftonville post as the Glens looked to double their lead.
The victory was wrapped up in the second minute of injury time when substitute McCaffrey raced clear before hammering a low shot past Devlin.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Henderson (Hamill 88), Kane (McCaffrey 46), Holland, Magee, Addis, McAlorum (Caldwell 70), Smith, Allen, Gordon, McCullough.
Subs not used: Hogg, Cafolla.
CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, Ives (McMurray 80), Flynn, Knowles, Curran, McDaid (Murray 80), Garrett, M. Donnelly (J. Donnelly 62), Catney, Cosgrove.
Subs not used: McMullan, Brennan.
Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Belfast)