With the league title already secured earlier in the week, there was a carnival atmosphere for the re-arranged fixture on Saturday.
Because of an anticipated large crowd for the fixture, the game was moved from Seaview to Solitude.
Diarmuid O'Carroll set up Chris Curran to score the opening goal in the 11th minute, before Davy McMaster equalised with a deflected effort in the 25th minute.
Curran notched his second of the afternoon on the half-hour mark after pouncing on a defensive mistake by the Crues, and completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot in the 60th minute after Josh Robinson was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box.
Jordan Owens netted a consolation for Stephen Baxter's side in the 72nd minute, but it was to be Cliftonville's day as they retained the league title for the first time in their history.
While Solitude rocked to the celebrations, it was Ards who were the big losers on the final day of the Irish League season with Championship 1 winners Institute promoted to the top flight at the expense of Niall Currie's side.
The Premiership's basement side had been hopeful of neighbours Bangor doing them a favour by clinching the championship title with victory against Harland and Wolff Welders, but the North Down outfit could only manage a 1-1 draw against the Belfast side.
Because Bangor had opted not to apply for Premiership status, a win would have afforded Ards the opportunity of a promotion/relegation play-off against Institute.
However, a 67th minute goal from Josh Cahoon - who has signed pre-contract terms with Ards for next season - cancelled out Jordan Forsythe's first half opener, and with the game ending in a draw that left the door open for 'Stute to seal the league title and automatic promotion after a 2-0 win over Limavady.
Ards went into Saturday's game against Ballymena with their fate very much out of their own hands, but the afternoon did not start well as James McCabe's 12th minute strike put the Sky Blues into the lead.
William Faulkner levelled for the visitors two minutes before the beak, and that was the end of the scoring as Ards completed their top flight programme for at least another season with a 1-1 draw.
In the game at Mourneview Park it was a bittersweet occasion for Linfield manager David Jeffrey, who enjoyed a 5-2 victory over hosts Glenavon in his final game in charge of the club.
His players were clearly keen to put on a show for their outgoing boss, with Mark McAllister volleying the visitors into an 8th minute lead.
Tiarnan Mulvenna levelled for the hosts five minutes later, but the Blues took the advantage again seconds later through a Peter Thompson cross headed home by Ross Clarke.
Thompson got himself on the score sheet in the 29th minute when he pounced on a rebound from close range, and added another in the 66th minute as the Glenavon defence wilted.
There was still time for Aaron Burns to add a fifth for the visitors before Andrew Hoey grabbed a consolation for the hosts as Jeffrey signed off with a win.
Following the game Linfield revealed on their website that Warren Feeney will take over as manager from 1 May.
Glentoran ended the season on a positive note with a 2-1 victory over Portadown at Shamrock Park.
Fra McCaffrey scored the opener for the visitors after nine minutes following some intricate build-up play, with Kym Nelson adding a second 11 minutes later.
Peter McMahon's low drive six minutes before the break proved merely a consolation as the Glens held out for a draw that sees them finish the season in fifth place.
There were no goals and little in the way of talking points in the game at the Coleraine Showgrounds as Coleraine played out a scoreless draw with Dungannon Swifts to complete their league programme.
Finally Ballinamallard beat Warrenpoint town to 10th place after a 3-0 victory at Milltown.
Richard Lecky's fine strike from inside the area opened the scoring for the visitors on the half-hour mark, before Jason McCartney scored a penalty after a handball by Stephen Moan.
Ryan Campbell's classy goal in the 70th minute completed the scoring for Whitey Anderson's side, with the midfielder racing through and taking the ball round Jonny Parr in the Town goal before firing home.
Warrenpoint end the season in 11th place, but will avoid a promotion/relegation play-off after Bangor's second-placed finish in the Championship.
Danske Bank Premiership results
Ballymena United 1- 1Ards
Ballymena: James McCabe (12)
Ards: Willie Faulkner (43)
Coleraine 0 - 0 Dungannon Swifts
Crusaders 2 - 3 Cliftonville
Crusaders: David McMaster (23) Jordan Owens (77)
Cliftonville: Chris Curran (10, 30, pen 63)
Glenavon 2 - 5 Linfield
Glenavon: Tiarnan Mulvenna (13) Andrew Hoey (84)
Linfield: Mark McAllister (8) Ross Clarke (14), Peter Thompson (29, 66), Aaron Burns (70).
Portadown 1 - 2 Glentoran
Portadown: Peter McMahon (39)
Glentoran: Fra McCaffrey (9), Kym Nelson (20)
Warrenpoint Town 0 - 3 Ballinamallard
Ballinamallard: Richard Lecky (29), Jason McCartney (pen 58), Ryan Campbell (70)