Joe Gormley bagged a double and moved on to 30 for the season as champions Cliftonville moved to within one point of Premiership leaders Linfield.
Bottom club Ards had made a great start when a dipping shot by Ross Arthurs put them in front after just three minutes.
Liam Boyce tapped in a seventh-minute equaliser and Gormley headed in from Martin Donnelly's cross for 2-1.
Gormley went through to score the Reds' third while James Knowles pulled one back against his former club.
Ards had Sean Cleary sent-off near the end for picking up a second yellow card.
"We made it a bit harder than we should have," said Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin.
"It was a bad start for us but we bounced back to go 3-1 up and we were in control of the game.
"We played some outstanding football but on occasions we just lacked the finishing touch."
Ards, without a win now for 10 league matches, find themselves eight points adrift of one-from-bottom Warrenpoint Town.
However, they could not have wished for a better start as Arthurs cut in and let fly with his right foot from the edge of the penalty box.
Boyce's equaliser was down to a mistake by home keeper Alan Blayney who dwelt on the ball and lost possession when closed down by Gormley.
In the 31st minute Gormley headed in from Donnelly's perfect cross.
Gormley was on target again just short of the hour, running on to Ryan Catney's ball over the Ards defence to move on to 30 goals for the season.
Knowles scored for Ards on 69 minutes, smashing in after the Reds had failed to clear Cleary's flick-on from David Gibson's throw-in.