TWO goals midway through the second half handed Linfield the points in this, at times, heated encounter at Windsor Park.
The Crues started brightly and through Timmy Adamson might twice have taken an early lead, particularly on 15 minutes when he fired over from the edge of the area after finding himself unmarked.
Other chances followed with Aidan Watson perhaps coming closest on the half-hour mark with a free-kick which Blues 'keeper Alan Blayney did well to keep out.
The first half ended with tempers raised after referee Arnold Hunter dismissed Crues midfielder Chris Morrow for foul play on Aaron Burns before booking Rory Patterson and Declan Caddell.
After the break defender Stephen McBride almost knocked the ball into his own net whilst attempting to clear a Mark McAllister cross.
The deadlock was eventually broken on 66 minutes through Jim Ervin who connected with an uncleared Damien Curran corner to blast the ball into the net via a deflection.
Then, seven minutes later, Robert Garrett added a second with a superbly struck 25-yard effort into the top corner.
And Linfield might have grabbed a third towards the end only for Crues 'keeper Sean O'Neill to pull off a point blank stop to deny Peter Thompson.
Linfield: Blayney, Douglas, Gault, Curran, Carvill, A. Burns, Patterson, Garrett, Ervin, Watson, McAllister subs Armstrong (not used), Lowry (replaced Gault 63), Thompson (replaced Patterson 63), Fordyce (replaced Burns 78), Casement (not used)
Crusaders: O'Neill, McKeown, McBride, Leeman, Coates, Morrow, Caddell, Dallas, Watson, Adamson, Owens subs McCann (replaced Watson 90), McMaster (replaced Caddell 78), Rainey (replaced Owens 78), Halliday (not used), Snoddy (not used)
- Jim Ervin celebrates with his Linfield team-mates after opening the scoring (Picture: Darren Kidd/PressEye.com)