Notts County continued their worrying habit of starting slowly, surrendering early goals and having to battle back.
Crewe, justifying their high ranking in the table, were completely dominant for half an hour and could even have been further than two goals in front.
The game was less than two minutes old when Notts failed to defend the first corner and Steve Jones was left with the simplest of scoring chances.
It did not act as a wake up call as Notts continued to toil in the face of some fluent football from the accomplished visitors.
It was from one of their flowing moves that Crewe deservedly obtained a second goal on 13 minutes.
The ball was moved around with some brilliant one-touch football to leave Rob Hulse with an easy chance for his 24th goal of the season.
Both he and Jones were subsequently denied further goals only by the outstanding work of Notts goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall, who was frequently left badly exposed by poor defending.
Notts were fortunate not to be more than two behind at the break and certainly looked a different team after the interval.
On the hour central defender Richard Walker was penalised for use of an arm against Mark Stallard, who was too shaken to take the penalty himself.
The responsibility fell to skipper Darren Caskey who blasted the ball into the roof of the net.
Though Crewe had lost their early edge they were still dangerous and Jones flashed a brilliant drive just wide after fine individual work.
Notts kept plugging away and were rewarded three minutes from time when substitute Danny Allsopp beat Clayton Ince with a low drive.
It was the fourth home match running in which Notts had had to recover from a poor start and manager Billy Dearden was afterwards critical of the poor first-half performance.
Crewe manager Dario Gradi said he left Meadow Lane wondering how they had not managed to secure all three points.