Glenavon’s hopes of finishing third took a dent at Solitude as Cliftonville came out on top 3-1 on Saturday,
It is a huge blow for the Lurgan Blues who drop down to fourth spot as the Reds go third.
Gary Hamilton’s side did rally late on, but the game turned in favour of the Reds early in the second half as they grabbed that all important first goal.
Simon Kelly did give Glenavon some hope on 87 minutes with his first goal for the club, but that hope ended soon after when sub Jay Donnelly was free to round Johnny Tuffey and wrap up the win in added time.
There was little between the teams in the opening quarter with the Reds have some pressure which Glenavon handled fairly comfortably. The visitors created a couple of half chances with Kevin Braniff getting his head to an Andy Hall cross but his effort was cleared from goal. Then Mark Patton just failed to play in Braniff and from another Patton cross from a free kick the home side stood firm.
After Andy Kilmartin did well to cut out a dangerous surge forward by Jay Donnelly the Reds had their first direct shot on goal on 24 minutes with a Daniel Hughes effort that lacked power to trouble Johnny Tuffey.
With so much at stake it was no surprise neither team wanted to give much away and it became rather scrappy with Glenavon unable to get a sight of goal until the 36th minutes when Patton’s well struck shot was deflected over the bar.
Right on the stroke of half-time the Reds were almost in but just as Hughes was about to pull the ball down Kilmartin nipped in to clear.
Cliftonville took the lead on 48 minutes and it was not without some debate as a cross was left by Tuffey who raised his arm for the ball going out of play, but Stephen Garrett hooked it back in and Darren Murray had a free header into an empty net. Referee Raymond Crangle ignored Glenavon’s appeals and the Reds had the vital lead.
Five minutes later Glenavon had a chance to level when Kilmartin threaded the ball into Bradley who did well to carry ball on but could not make clean contact and Burke saved easily.
The afternoon got even tougher for Glenavon on 58 minutes when Jude Winchester made it 2-0 with a superb finish from the edge of the box.
Glenavon made a double change with Gary Hamilton and Ian Morris, making his debut, replacing Kilmaratin and Hall.
A determined run by Andy McGrory saw the ball break wide for Patton, he delivered the cross but Conor Dillon directed his header well over the bar.
The visitors did enjoy their best spell of the game at this stage and missed a great chance when Patton squared to Bradley who had space to turn but sliced his shot well wide. A few minutes later Hamilton thought he had scored with a header but keeper Burke got his hand to it on the line. From the corner by Hamilton it was Simon Kelly who powered in his first ever goal for the Lurgan Blues on 87 minutes.
There was still time left to salvage a point, but having to push forward Glenavon were exposed at the back and David McDaid picked out Jay Donnelly who made it 3-1 and sealed the three points for the home side.
Glenavon: Tuffey, Kelly, Dillon, Kilmartin, Marshall, Bradley, Hall, Patton, McGrory, Braniff, Martyn.
Subs: Morris, Lindsay, Hamilton, Elebert, McGrath.