The interim boss saw his side grab three crucial points thanks to goals from youngsters Ryan Finley and Justin Meram.
Rookie Ryan Finley, 22, opened the scoring with his first goal and 24-year-old Justin Meram contributed a goal and an assist as Columbus (9-13-5) moved within five points of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot -- a place Houston (10-9-7) remains tied for.
The opening 11 minutes made for a stint Will Bruin will want to soon forget, as the Houston striker got behind the defense three times but couldn't finish on any occasion. Columbus, meanwhile, in the first half came closest to scoring when Dominic Oduro's breakaway was stoned by goalkeeper Tally Hall.
The Crew took the lead two minutes after halftime. Collecting a chip down the left flank from Bernardo Anor, Meram hit a low service that Finley smashed into the roof of the net.
Finley had a chance to make it a quick brace four minutes later when Columbus was granted a penalty kick for a minimal shirt tug from Bobby Boswell on Oduro. Finley, however, fired his effort straight at Hall.
In the 72nd minute, the Crew again missed out on an insurance tally when Meram rang the crossbar with a bid from distance.
But Meram got his goal two minutes later, beating Kofi Sarkodie as he cut into the box and hit a far post shot past Hall.