The Reds earned a 2-0 victory over Glenavon, taking the lead on 16 minutes when George McMullan converted from the penalty spot after Kris Lindsay had fouled Joe Gormley in the area.
Lurgan Blues captain Eddie McCallion was left red-faced for Cliftonville's second, as he could only turn Martin Donnelly's low ball across the box into his own net.
Second-placed Coleraine failed to keep pace with Tommy Breslin's table-toppers, managing only a 1-1 draw at home to Crusaders - and their controversial equalising goal was one which is likely to provoke debate for some time to come.
The Crues went ahead in the 18th minute when a flowing attacking move was finished off from close range by Jordan Owens, who was left with the simplest of tap-ins from Gary McCutcheon's cut-back.
The hosts lost Gareth McKeown to a second yellow card midway through the second half after he had harshly picked up his first for taking a free kick too quickly, but there was to be a moment of greater controversy eight minutes from time as Coleraine were awarded a penalty in bizarre circumstances.
Play had briefly stopped after the linesman had signalled for an offside against Crusaders, with Joshua Henderson lifting the ball to position it for what was believed to have been the resulting free kick.
However, the referee intervened and correctly overruled the offside decision before awarding a spot-kick against the unfortunate Henderson, in spite of fierce protests by the Crusaders players.
Curtis Allen dispatched the penalty to ensure the spoils were shared.
In the game at Windsor Park Linfield bounced back from their defeat to Coleraine earlier in the week with a 1-0 victory over Portadown.
Both sides were reduced to ten men six minutes before the break when Portadown's Chris Ramsey clashed with Mark McAllister in an off-the-ball incident.
The vital goal came two minutes into the second half when Phillip Lowry fired Niall Quinn's corner in off Portadown's Darren Murray.
The Blues could have doubled their advantage before the end from the penalty spot, but Michael Carville's effort was well saved by David Miskelly.
At Ballymena Showgrounds, Ballymena United and Ballinamallard battled to a 1-1 draw, although the game was marred by an ugly brawl at half time involving players and staff from both sides.
Jason McCartney was sent off for his part in the mêlée, while Johnny Taylor and Alan Teggart both received cautions.
Prior to that incident the Mallards had taken the lead thanks to a bullet header from Steven Feeney in the 12th minute.
However, Ballymena drew level five minutes before half time when Teggart converted from the penalty spot after James McKenna had handled in the area.
Both sides were down to ten men two minutes before the end when Mark Surgeoner was sent off - the fifth red card handed out in the Irish league on Saturday.
Pat McAllister enjoyed a winning return to Suffolk Road as Donegal Celtic picked up their first victory of the season at the expense of Glentoran.
McAllister's faith in Shane Dolan was repaid with interest, with the returning striker netting twice in the first half.
The opener came in the 15th minute when he got on the end of a long throw to finish from close range, while the second came from a delightfully cheeky flick in the 35th minute.
Sean Ward pulled one back for Eddie Patterson's side when he finished from a cross by Stephen Carson, but a string of saves from DC keeper John Connolly were enough to ensure the hosts took all three points for the first time this season.
It was honours even at Stangmore Park with Dungannon swifts drawing 1-1 with Lisburn Distillery.
The struggling Whites took the lead in the 88th minute thanks to a great finish from Scott Davison, who whipped a wonderful volley past Niall Morgan, who had earlier saved a penalty from Michael Halliday.
However, Dungannon equalised in controversial circumstances in the third minute of stoppage time, with Ryan Harpur heading home after both sets of players had stopped in apparent expectation of a penalty being awarded.
However, the referee allowed the goal to stand, meaning that the single point moves Distillery to the bottom of the table on goal difference.
Danske Bank Premiership results:
Ballymena Utd 1-1 Ballinamallard Utd
Ballymena: Teggart (40p)
Ballinamallard: Feeney (12)
Crusaders 1-1 Coleraine
Crusaders: Owens (19)
Coleraine: Allen (82p)
Donegal Celtic 2-1 Glentoran
Donegal Celtic: Dolan (15) (35)
Dungannon Swifts 1-1 Lisburn Distillery
Lisburn: Davidson (88)
Glenavon 0-2 Cliftonville
Cliftonville: McMullan (16p),McCallion O.G (24)
Linfield 1-0 Portadown
Linfield: Lowry (47)