The 30-year-old from Coatbridge could not be faulted for heart or bravery during 12 tough rounds in front of a 10,000 sell-out crowd.
However, this time he came up short against the 26-year-old unbeaten American, who was simply too fast and too slick and well worth the judges' scorecards which showed 116- 112, 117-111 and 116-112 in his favour.
Promoter Eddie Hearn admitted beforehand that Burns, unbeaten in seven years, would have to find his top form if he was to retain his belt.
He was struggling against Jose Gonzalez last May until the Puerto Rican quit and against Ray Beltran, in September, he controversially earned a draw albeit after having his jaw broken in the second round.
There was little controversy about this outcome with Burns admitting afterwards that the better man won.
The atmosphere inside the Glasgow arena was at fever pitch as he entered the ring after the challenger, the lengthy preamble of introductions and national anthems serving to increase the tension.
The Scot looked to edge a cagey first round with some solid scoring jabs and good defensive work but the Nebraskan revealed quick hands which kept the champions' mind concentrated.
A good right-hand from Burns in the second round had the crowd cheering but there was still caution from both fighters.
Crawford looked to grow in confidence with some good shots in the next round, in which both men opened out more, and Burns was on the ropes in the early part of the fourth round, having to use all his experience to keep Crawford at bay.
The fight was warming up nicely but for his part, Burns was going backwards more often than he would have wanted and having to work off the ropes with a tight defence.
Crawford was starting to dominate the centre of the ring, forcing the pace and finding the target with some good shots, as the crowd fell ominously silent.
The American was warned for the use of the elbow in the seventh after another clinch but he found the target with a terrific left which Burns had to shrug off.
Burns appeared to be in some trouble again early in the next round, covering himself on the ropes as Crawford unleashed another flurry of punches.
The Scot dug deep, freed himself up with typical grit and determination but it was obvious Crawford fancied his chances, fending off a strong start to the ninth round by Burns and invariably coming out better when they both swapped punches.
An exciting 10th round saw punches being swapped by two increasingly tired fighter but there was always the feeling that Crawford was on top.
Tiredness underpinned the closing two rounds, but Burns took some punishment wearing the face of a man who knew his reign was over.
Burns was magnanimous in defeat, acknowledging Crawford had deserved his victory.
"It was a tricky fight, very awkward," the Scot said on Sky Sports 2. "I found it hard to get my shots off. He was always playing with distance. The best man won on the night. But I'll be back.
"I took a good body shot but I managed to recover. I took a head shot. I proved I could take it.
"The better man won on the night. He boxed well - good on him.
"I was finding it hard. He was in and out of distance all night. You can see why he's being touted as the next big thing in America.
"There's some big fights out there for me over here as well, but the first choice for me is to get the rematch."
He added: "I feel I belong at world level. I think I proved that tonight against Terence. It's buzzing at world level. We'll just have to wait and see. I'll be back in the gym in a couple of weeks, raring to go."
Crawford seemed well up for a rematch with the Scot.
"Oh yeah," he said. "Talk to my promoter and we'll do it again."
He added: "We knew Ricky had nice jab so we were looking to throw him off his jab and make him reach.
"We trained real hard for this fight - just like for any fight. I wasn't worried about the rounds."