Glenavon put in a resolute performance but were defeated by a strong Linfield side at Windsor Park.
Kevin Braniff, who was partnering Eoin Bradley up front, had the first opportunity on four minutes when his shot from 20 yards was saved by Ross Glendenning.
Kirk Millar was proving to be a bright spark in the Linfield attack and almost broke the deadlock with a half volley. Fortunately for Glenavon, goalkeeper Jonathan Tuffey, who was in fine form all afternoon, parried the shot away.
Mark Stafford ended up in the referee’s notebook on 13 minutes after he fouled Bradley.
Four minutes later Rhys Marshall headed over a Neill corner, while at the other end former Glenavon defender Mark Haughey misplaced a header from a Millar free kick from the right.
Guy Bates went close to opening the scoring with a low drive which was pushed away by Tuffey after referee Ross Dunlop played an advantage.
On 33 minutes Glenavon broke through Braniff, who beat two defenders before shooting, with the effort being deflected for a corner. Neill took the corner from the right and it went straight in to give Glenavon the lead, looping above Glendenning!
Tuffey was called into action two minutes later when he pushed away Millar’s shot from 16 yards from Bates’ pass.
Andy Waterworth equalised just before the break although there were suspicions of offside. Sean Ward and Millar led a counter attack, with the latter playing the ball to his right for the ex-Glentoran man to finish.
And the Blues were in front five minutes into the second half through Millar, who stroked the ball home at the back post from Niall Quinn’s cross.
With 55 minutes on the clock things went from bad to worse for Glenavon as Waterworth added a third, tapping in from another Quinn cross.
Glenavon pulled a goal back when Kris Lindsay scored with a well taken half volley after Mark Stafford had headed off the line and the comeback looked to be completed when substitute Mark Patton’s cross was turned in by Bradley to make it 3-3.
Bradley could have restored Glenavon’s lead a minute later when he was left one on one with Glendinning. He attempted to chip the onrushing goalkeeper but put too much lift on his effort, which ended up in the new-look Railway Stand. That miss would prove costly as, on 84 minutes, all of Glenavon’s hard work would be undone. Haughey headed a Kirk Millar corner into the bottom right hand corner.
David Kee was booked on 88 minutes for a tackle from behind on Bradley.
In stoppage time Glenavon had two penalty claims ignored, firstly when a Singleton shot appeared to hit a Linfield hand in the box, and perhaps more controversially when Rhys Marshall did ever so well to run into the Linfield box before being brought down. Player-manager Gary Hamilton also ended up in the referee’s notebook in stoppage time.
Linfield: Ross Glendinning, Stafford, Ward, Haughey, M Clarke, Kee, Mulgrew, Millar (Callacher 90), Quinn (Sproule 72), Bates (Lowry 79), Waterworth. Not used: Deane (GK), Reece Glendinning.
Glenavon: Tuffey, Neill (Patton 61), Dillon, Lindsay, Kilmartin, Bradley, Hall (Sykes 68), Marshall, Buckley (Hamilton 61), Braniff, Singleton. Not used: Kelly, Cooper.
Referee: Ross Dunlop