Crewe came into the first game of the New Year with a massive -26 goal difference, but a run of just one defeat in five gave them genuine hope for a much improved second half of the campaign.
And they had their sights set on a second consecutive victory against a Carlisle side which doesn’t travel well at the moment, the Cumbrians having managed just one goal from their previous six away games.
Crewe had the better of the opening spell with Chuks Aneke a constant threat with his presence and height. Hitchcock and Bangna created the first of his openings when they exchanged passes to make space for a cross. The big striker had to stretch to get there and he sent his header harmlessly wide.
Bradden Inman was next to carry the ball forward and his endeavour brought a cut-back which invited Aneke and Hitchcock to try their luck. Makeshift centre-half Paul Thirlwell had other ideas as he lunged in to scoop the ball clear.
Aneke was even closer moments later when he peeled off his marker in search of an Osman delivery. His neat header appeared to be looping over Amos until he threw out a hand and touched it on to the bar.
The Cumbrians struggled to create and had to reshuffle their pack when Thirlwell pulled up with a calf problem just before half-time.
The visitors finally created an effort of their own on 36 minutes when Lawrence rode a challenge in midfield. He pulled it back for Miller but the usually reliable striker was off balance and he screwed his shot well wide of the target.
Crewe reasserted their authority and they should have taken the lead on the stroke of half-time when Inman left Chimbonda for dead. One-on-one with Amos, he opted for power instead of guile and was left to suffer the groans from the terraces as his effort shaved the outside of the post.
The visitors went even closer at the other end at the start of the second half when Amoo turned Tootle inside out and left him on the floor. He picked his moment to shoot and Garratt watched in relief as it hit the inside of the post and somehow bounced away to safety. But it was the Alex who grabbed the lead when Bangna worked hard to get the ball into a dangerous area. Hitchcock set it up and Chuks Aneke finished his volley beautifully into the top corner with the outside of his right boot.
The Cumbrians looked all at sea as Crewe upped the pressure, and the lead was doubled just after the hour when Inman turned away from Chimbonda.
His cross was touched on by Amos but Mesca Bangna was on hand to volley into the empty net.
Carlisle clawed their way back into it courtesy of a wonderful free-kick from Tom Lawrence with just over 10 minutes to play, but his top-corner rasper and a frantic goalmouth scramble – complete with a clearance off the line – were the best the visitors could muster as they head into the second half of the season with a lot of work still to do to keep the relegation fears at bay.
CREWE: Garratt, Tootle, Ellis, Davis, Mellor, Inman, Osman, Grant, Bangna (Moore 88), Aneke (Nolan 90), Hitchcock (Oliver 85). Subs not used: Leitch-Smith, Ray, Martin, Guthrie.
Goals: Aneke 53, Bangna 64.
CARLISLE: Amos, Chimbonda, Thirlwell (Meppen-Walter 34), Ehmer, Robson, Berrett, Noble, Buaben (Morris 66), Amoo, Miller (Guy 59), Lawrence. Subs not used: Potts, Beck, Symington, Fleming.
Goal: Lawrence 78.
Att: 4,458. Referee: Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire).