Ross Lavery scored one and set up another as Cliftonville’s patience was rewarded against Dungannon Swifts this afternoon.
The winger pounced for the 67th minute breakthrough goal before providing the pass from which Jay Donnelly stylishly doubled the Reds’ advantage.
Substitute Stephen Garrett – whose forceful battling had laid the platform for Lavery’s strike – played a key role as Cliftonville added a third in injury-time, when his run and cross was turned into his own net by Chris Hegarty.
Despite the emphatic nature of the final scoreline, the Swifts posed plenty of threat and might have forged ahead as early as the second minute when a dangerous Johnny Lafferty ball across the face of goal found no takers in the middle.
Rory Donnelly dragged an attempt wide at the other end before Joe Gormley was off target following a smart touch and turn just inside the box.
Liam Bagnall was next to try his luck but the best chance of the half fell to Dungannon skipper Ryan Harpur who, clean through on goal, saw his strike claimed by goalkeeper Brian Neeson.
A similar opportunity unfolded for Rory Donnelly shortly afterwards but, after being smartly threaded through by Jude Winchester, he sent his shot straight at Andy Coleman.
The half ended with Coleman clawing out a header from Gormley, who was perplexed to find himself booked for simulation shortly afterwards despite evidently trying to stay on his feet after Coleman had clipped his heels inside the box.
Neeson came to the Reds’ rescue early in the second period with a fingertip save from Hegarty’s free-kick and quick reactions to prevent Peter McMahon’s cross from sneaking in at the near post.
From there onwards, however, Cliftonville began to exert control, with Gormley denied by a fantastic Coleman save as the hosts sought the opener.
Jay Donnelly blasted over after being teed up by Tomas Cosgrove before the deadlock was broken when Garrett chased down a lost cause wide on the right and pinged in the cross which Lavery slammed home with his right foot.
Jay Donnelly made it 2-0 shortly afterwards with a well-taken curling strike from distance and, after the crossbar had denied Gormley the goal his performance deserved, the Reds moved further ahead when Garrett’s low delivery struck Hegarty and squirmed past the keeper.
Cliftonville: Neeson, Ives, Breen, Harney, Bagnall, Winchester, Gormley, J Donnelly, Lavery, Cosgrove, R Donnelly. Subs: Dunne, Curran (Lavery, 84 mins), Garrett (R Donnelly, 65 mins), A Donnelly, McDonald (Winchester, 77 mins).
Sean Graham Man of the Match: Ross Lavery
Half Gate Draw Number: 75879