Southend completed a remarkable turnaround as a Simon Cox hat-trick helped Blues come from 3-0 down to secure a 3-3 draw against Portsmouth at Roots Hall.
The visitors looked to have blown the home side away with three goals in little over half-an-hour, starting when Bryn Morris thundered the ball in after eight minutes.
Portsmouth doubled their advantage when some slack defending from Southend allowed Ben Close to rip a half-volley into the bottom corner to put Pompey two clear.
That lead then became three after Morris struck the post and Oli Hawkins was on hand to score from the rebound to all but make the points, seemingly, safe for the visitors.
But Cox reduced the arrears just before the interval, nodding in a cross from Sam Hart before slotting away a penalty in the second-half following a foul on Michael Kightly.
And the comeback was complete when Timothee Dieng pulled off a delicious reverse ball into the run of Cox who curled in his hat-trick and completed an unbelievable turnaround.
The draw was scarcely believable and will hopefully give Southend some much needed momentum after a run of four games without a win, including Tuesday night’s defeat to Doncaster.
Chris Powell made two changes following that defeat at the Keepmoat Stadium with Michael Kightly and Michael Turner coming in for Michael Klass and the injured John White as Blues looked for some much-needed points.
Portsmouth’s form, like Blues, had been questionable since the turn of the year and they were coming into this game without a win since New Year’s Day, but the visitors knew they had Southend’s number with two wins against Blues already this campaign.
In front of the Sky Sports cameras, Blues started off brightly and forced goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray into action inside the first minute when Stephen McLaughlin sized up a shot from distance which the Scotsman got down to his right to save.
Blues had another half-chance moments later when Simon Cox’s shot was blocked inside the area following a Stephen McLaughlin free-kick with Michael Turner unable to get anything on the follow-up before Pompey hacked the ball clear.
Having staved off Southend’s early advances, the visitors would go straight up the other end and open the scoring themselves. Jamal Lowe’s low cross into the box was pushed out by Nathan Bishop but straight into the path of Bryn Morris who smashed the ball in from close range.
Portsmouth had already beaten Blues twice this season and they were well on their way to making it three wins from three when Sam Mantom failed to head clear following Sam Hart’s attempted clearance, leaving Ben Close to fire a superb half-volley into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.
Blues were reeling and just after the half-hour mark the game looked dead and buried as Portsmouth made it three. Morris’ low strike came off the face of the post and fell kindly to striker Oli Hawkins who scored from close range to all but wrap up the points for Pompey.
Southend had been blown away by a clinical Portsmouth but they gave themselves a glimmer of hope of salvaging something before half-time. Hart done well to find space for a cross, picking out Cox who looped the ball beyond MacGillivray to reduce the areas to two.
And Chris Powell’s team talk could have taken a completely different turn if Southend had grabbed another before the interval, going ever so close to making it 3-2 when a corner fell to Turner inside the box with the veteran defender curling an effort just wide of Pompey’s right-hand post.
Blues knew the next goal could be huge and only some brilliant defending from Christian Burgess after the break prevented Cox from grabbing his and Southend’s second. McLaughlin’s slide-rule pass looked to have unlocked the door only for Burgess to stretch out a leg to prod the ball away.
Immediately, Portsmouth countered and had a chance to make the game safe when a lovely bit of skill from Omar Bogle left the Southend defence for dead, allowing the on-loan Cardiff man a free strike on goal which was well saved by Bishop.
With a two-goal lead, Portsmouth were happy to sit back and allow Southend to press and Blues had a couple of half-chances to ensure a tense finish to the game with McLaughlin having a low strike held by MacGillivray and Cox seeing his effort from distance deflected wide.
But Blues were handed a lifeline with a little less than quarter of an hour to play as they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Michael Kighlty by Morris. Cox stepped up to send MacGillivray the wrong way and put Southend within one goal of an unlikely point.
Having already thrown on Isaac Hutchinson, Powell threw on another youngster Norman Wabo as Southend pushed for an equaliser, but it was Cox, on a hat-trick, who had the final say in a pulsating game of football as he scored a remarkable equaliser.
Timothee Dieng picked out the run of Cox with a delightful reverse ball with Cox having the confidence to curl the ball beyond MacGillivray first-time to claim his first hat-trick for Blues and pull off a barely believable comeback.
A point will have felt like a win for Powell’s Blues who looked dead and buried after 30 minutes, with the draw damaging to Portsmouth’s automatic promotion hopes. But that was the least of the Southend fan’s worries as the full-time whistle went to huge cheers at Roots Hall.
Blues XI: Bishop, Bwomono, Turner, Kightly (Wabo 82’), Dieng, Cox, McLaughlin, Mantom (C) (Hutchinson 73’), Moore, Humphrys (Klass 25’), Hart. Subs Not Used: Smith, Kiernan, Lennon, Kelman
Portsmouth XI: MacGillivray, Walkes, Brown, Clarke (C), Burgess, Hawkins, Lowe (Vaughan 88’), Soloman-Otabor (Curtis 71’), Bogle (Evans 74’), Morris, Close. Subs Not Used: Bass, May, Casey, Haunstrup
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Assistants: Andrew Williams & Grant Taylor
Fourth Official: Neil Hair
Southend United: Simon Cox 36’, (p)77’, 87’
Portsmouth: Bryn Morris 8’, Ben Close 20’, Oli Hawkins 31’
Southend United: Michael Klass 83’, Taylor Moore 90+3’
Portsmouth: Anton Walkes 90+3’, James Vaughan 90+3’
Attendance: 7,300 (1,239 Away)