Luke Murphy scored twice as Crewe beat Plymouth, who lost ground at the bottom of League Two.
The midfielder opened the scoring when he raced onto Matt Tootle's ball to drill home and made it 2-0 with an unstoppable finish.
Simon Walton gave Argyle hope from the spot before Ashley Westwood scored a spot-kick of his own for Crewe.
Matt Lecointe pulled one back with a turn and finish before team-mate Conor Hourihane's red card for two bookings.
Plymouth had manager Carl Fletcher sent off for criticising the decision to award Crewe a penalty after 53 minutes when Durrell Berry tripped AJ Leitch-Smith in the box.
Argyle are now three points behind second-from-bottom Northampton, , while Crewe are safely in mid-table.
VIEWS FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Crewe manager Steve Davis told BBC Radio Stoke:
"We knew it was going to be tough, but probably not as tough is it was at the end.
"It was a stuttering performance from us, we were good and bad, and we had to defend very well in the final 20 minutes of the game.
"We never looked safe and I always felt they looked like getting something, so we had to battle hard."
Plymouth Argyle manager Carl Fletcher told BBC Radio Devon:
"Coming away from home, we kept possession of the football fairly well.
"We were doing what we wanted to do so it was disappointing to lose sloppy goals from our point of view.
"To concede a penalty so soon after scoring was a blow but we kept coming back."