by Andrew Gidley
Gillingham's interest in this season’s Johnstone's Paint Trophy was ended by substitute Scott Nielsen's super strike four minutes from time at the Broadfield Stadium on Tuesday night.
Nielsen decided a tie, which looked to be heading for a penalty shoot-out, by cutting inside from the left before sending a 25-yard right-footed effort past Gillingham debutant goalkeeper Tommy Forecast.
Manager Martin Allen made six changes from the team that drew with Chesterfield in League 2 on Saturday, but also had to make an early substitution with youngster Jack Evans replacing Matt Fish, who had a tight Achilles. Evans did well, looking very confident, and getting forward at the first opportunity.
The Gills started well, playing some attractive passing football, before taking a 22nd minute lead through youngster Bradley Dack (pictured) with his first senior goal for the club.
Crawley's Mark Connolly went close with an effort that took a wicked deflection off left-hand post, before Josh Walsh put the League 1 side level with a fine 20-yard finish after 40 minutes.
Two goals in the four minutes after the break set up the second half nicely.
Billy Clarke put Crawley in front two minutes after half-time, touching home Josh Simpson's cross, before Lewis Montrose's neat finish at the other end made it 2-2.
Nielsen's winner would have graced bigger cup ties than this, a small crowd producing little atmosphere.
The Gills played their full part in the tie, but the defeat continues Allen's poor record in the competition, having still never got beyond the first round.
Crawley: Jones, Hunt, Connolly, Cooper, Walsh, Simpson, Bulman, Jones (Davies 71 mins), Adams (Neilsen 63mins) Clark. Forte (Akinde 77mins). Subs not used: Kuipers, Wassmer.
Gillingham: Forecast, Fish (Evans 13mins), Flanagan, Frampton, Martin, Jackman, Montrose, Allen, Whelpdale (Birchall 66mins), Strevens, Dack. Subs not used: Hawkes, Davies, Brown.