A cracking second-half goal from Adam Murray brought fast-climbing Oxford United a fifth straight league win at fellow play-off hopefuls Crawley.

Murray drilled home a low angled shot on 61 minutes to earn Chris Wilder his first away win since taking charge.

But the U's were also indebted to their No 1, Billy Turley, for some outstanding goalkeeping under pressure.

It was a fiesty Blue Square Premier match, with referee Darren Sheldrake aving to book five players, four of them from Crawley.

Sheldrake was the ref who was in charge of United's game at Salisbury on Boxing Day when he did not punish the bad challenge that left Sam Deering with a broken leg.

There was a fantastic number of U's fans in the visitors' end for what was Oxford's first away action since that game.

The Crawley players were wearing black arms bands following the death of midfielder Thomas Pinault's brother from a heart attack at the age of 24 this week, just two days after he had played in a French second division match.

Wilder deployed a 3-4-3 system for the first time, with Chris Willmott, Luke Foster and Shane Killock as the centre backs, Damien Batt making his debut on the right wing, following his move from Grays, Chris Carruthers on the left, and Yemi Odubade and Craig Nelthorpe in attack, on either side of James Constable.

It was an attacking line-up, and United certainly started well, Constable firing a testing cross from the right just out of the reach of goalkeeper Simon Rayner.

Constable created an opportunity for himself with a superb piece of play from Turley's long kick forward.

After Crawley centre back missed his header, Constable chested the ball flicked the ball past Rayner with an outstretched foot and then just got to it again under pressure from a covering defender, but could only nod it wide.

Crawley had signed big centre forward Rob Matthews from Salisbury the previous day, and he is one who often uses his height to good effect, and did so with a far-post header that Turley saved down by his left post.

However, it was a very open game, and Nelthorpe, after stinging Rayner's hands with a fine 25-yard drive, was having a significant impact on both flanks.

He twice delivered excellent left-wing crosses that Odubade was close to meeting.

But midway through the first half, Constable was harshly booked for a strong challenge on centre half Jake Wright, in which he won the ball, and it was his fifth yellow card of the season, which means he misses next Saturday's home game against Lewes.

Odubade raced 50 yards on a quick break but, with Constable making a good run to his outside, he then overhit his pass to him and the ball ran out for a goal kick - an excellent opportunity squandered.

Killock pulled his hamstring seconds before the half-time break, and had to be replaced for the second half.

Wilder brought on Eddie Hutchinson, freeing Carruthers to return to left back with the U's reverting to a flat back four.

The second period was less than ten seconds old when Odubade, bursting down the right, hit a angled snap shot on the turn, which Rayner had to be alert to save.

Clear-cut opportunities were hard to come by, but the home side missed a decent chance when, from a long throw-in, the ball ran free to Simon Weatherstone 15 yards out. He had only Turley to beat, but poked his shot wide.

Turley did brilliantly to tip over a close-range header from Matthews.

United's breakthrough came just past the hour mark and only moments after they had made a substitution, with Lewis Haldane replacing Odubade.

Murray ran on to Constable's flick-on and, seeing Rayner's position out of the corner of his eye, drilled a superb right-footed shot past the keeper from wide on the right.

Haldane made a complete mess of a wonderful opportunity for United to go two up. They had three players against Crawley's two on a counter-attack, and Constable in a great position unmarked, but Haldane went it alone, and fired wastefully over the bar.

Chasing the game, Crawley had a good amount of possession, but Oxford looked dangerous when they broke, and Haldane did that again with a good burst of speed. Once again, Constable was to his left, and again it was a lofted shot from Haldane, which the keeper rached up to save above his head.

Turley made some great catches under pressure.

Haldane went on a great run down the right ten minutes from time and cut the ball back invitingly for Nelthorpe, but the on-loan Doncaster winger took too many touches when he should have shot, and again an opportunity to put the game out of Crawley's reach went begging.

Oxford Utd: Turley, Willmott, Foster, Killock (Hutchinson h-t), Batt, Chapman, Murray, Carruthers, Nelthorpe (Sappleton 89), Odubade (Odubade 61), Constable. Subs not used: Hinchliffe, Burnell.

Booked: Constable.

Ref: Darren Sheldrake (Molesey).

Att: 1,603 (544 from Oxford).