CLIFTONVILLE started brightly, coming close to opening the scoring on 18 minutes when a Dermot McVeigh half-volley was blocked by Anto Lagan.
At the other end new Rangers signing Grant Hutchinson tested Ryan Brown twice in quick succession but, on each occasion, was unable to beat the 'keeper.
Former Red David McAlinden then threatened on 13 minutes with a header into the side-netting.
Then, right at the end of the first half, Stephen Garrett teed Chris Scannell up only for his effort to
meet a similar fate.
The side netting was ruffled once again early in the second half when McAlinden failed to finish a Heatley corner.
And Carrick continued to look the most likely to score on 67 minutes when Paul Owens found himself one-on-one with Brown only to fire wide.
But their hopes of securing something from their first game back in the Premiership were dashed with seven minutes remaining after a Joe Gormley shot took a deflection off Lagan before falling for Martin Donnelly to tap in at the back post.
Cliftonville: Brown, Smyth, R. Scannell, Johnston, McVeigh, Donaghy, Caldwell, Catney, C. Scannell, Garrett, M. Donnelly subs Fleming (not used), McMullan (replaced Catney 60), R. Donnelly (replaced Caldwell 79), Convery (not used), Gormley (replaced Garrett 60)
Carrick Rangers: Keenan, Murray, Hogan, Hutchinson, Lagan, McAlinden, Harmon, Anderson, O'Neill, Owens, Heatley subs Bell (not used), Braniff (not used), McDowell (replaced O'Neill 80), Taggart (replaced McAlinden 86), O'Kane (not used)
- Martin Donnelly celebrates grabbing Cliftonville's winner (Picture: Darren Kidd/PressEye.com)