Late goal denies Blues handing first home league defeat to Shrewsbury Town.
Southend United suffered late heartbreak at the hands of table-topping Shrewsbury Town at Greenhous Meadow, with Tyrone Barnett's strike with five minutes remaining cancelling out Jack Payne's opener in an entertaining 1-1 draw in Sky Bet League Two.
Payne produced a moment of magic just after half time, smashing past Jayson Leutwiler, but it wasn't enough, as Shrews substitute Barnet punished a defensive mistake in emphatic style.
Manager Phil Brown made one change to the starting lineup that defeated York City last week at Roots Hall.
Payne returned to the Blues XI, replacing David Worrall, who was unwell during the night, and missed out on the squad altogether.
The hosts came flying out of the traps, and in the second minute, they created the first chance. A surging run and cross from the marauding Mickey Demetriou found Bobby Grant lurking at the far post, but his drive flew just past Dan Bentley's right-hand post.
At the other end, Blues striker Joe Pigott forced Shrews stopper Leutwiler into a smart stop down to his right to push Pigott's header away from danger.
The Blues were looking comfortable against a Shrewsbury side who had only lost once at home all season in all competitions – against Chelsea – and Pigott and Payne both fired over the bar, as the first half came to a close.
A neat move involving Payne and Will Atkinson saw the latter get free of his man on the right-hand side, but his pull back just evaded striker Pigott on the penalty spot, as the game headed to half time.
Two minutes after the break, a long range effort from the impressive Ryan Woods was held down low by Bentley.
Five minutes later and home captain Liam Lawrence tried a shot that was comfortable for Bentley in the Southend goal.
And soon after, Blues grabbed the opening goal of the game, through Payne's delightful finish past Leutwiler. From a quick Timlin free kick, Payne found space, tricked his way past his marker Mark Ellis, and smashed emphatically past the Shrews keeper in terrific style.
Just after the hour mark and Blues could have grabbed a second goal. Good work from Atkinson down the right saw the midfielder find Pigott in space, but the striker hit inches wide of the target from inside the box.
At the other end, Bentley pulled off another good stop, this time denying Connor Goldson. The big centre back got above his man and the ball was heading for the corner, but Bentley did well to deny the defender.
Bentley's goal was living a charmed life, and substitute Barnett and Woods both missed the target from inside the box. The Blues back line were looking rigid and strong.
But, with five minutes of the game remaining, an uncharacteristic mistake from Bentley saw the 21-year-old drop the ball, and Barnett got himself a debut goal with an excellent finish from an acute angle, which cracked against the post before nesting in the net.
And despite the Shrews putting the Blues under heavy pressure, searching for the winning goal, Brown's men held on to earn a creditable point to take back to Essex.
Blues: Bentley; White (c), Thompson, Binnom-Williams, Coker; Atkinson, Leonard, Payne (Weston, 83), Timlin; Pigott (Coulthirst, 68), Cassidy (Corr, 75)
Substitutes: P. Smith, Prosser, Deegan, Barrett.