Late Barry Corr strike wins game for heroic ten-man Blues in heroic performance.
Ten-man Southend United produced a heroic performance in a tug of war battle at Oxford United's Kassam Stadium, eventually winning the game 3-2 thanks to a late Barry Corr goal.
Gary Deegan was sent off for two bookable offences late in the first half, with Oxford going in at the break 2-1 up.
However, second half strikes from Joe Pigott – netting his first in Blues colours – and Corr, seven minutes from time, earned a hard fought win for Southend, to extend their winning run over the U's to six games.
New striker Jake Cassidy started for Blues, joining fellow new boy Pigott in attack.
Jack Payne dropped to a strong bench, along with the returning Luke Prosser.
Will Atkinson took his place in midfield alongside David Worrall, Ryan Leonard and Gary Deegan, whilst Phil Brown keeps the same back five that kept a clean sheet in the last outing against Plymouth Argyle.
Adam Barrett travelled, but missed out on the squad after picking up a knock in training, although Brown did say the defender should be fine for next week's trip to Portsmouth.
It was almost a dream start for Blues, as in the first minute, a great cross from Atkinson found the head of Worrall. However, former Southend loanee Ryan Clarke in the Oxford goal tipped the header out for a corner.
At the other end, Danny Hylton – Oxford's top scorer – blazed high over the crossbar and into the car park from a narrow angle after being put through by Andy Whing.
The hosts took the lead on 14 minutes through Callum O'Dowda. The returning Will Hoskiins threaded a neat pass through to the midfielder, who took a touch before placing the ball expertly past Dan Bentley in the Southend goal.
The response from the Blues was good, and after a couple of probing attempts to find a way back into the game, Worrall bagged the equaliser on 25 minutes.
Another great Coker cross found the head of Worrall – almost a carbon copy of the opening minute chance – and this time, the Blues winger headed down and past Clarke to level things up at the Kassam Stadium.
Blues grew in confidence, and moments later, after Leonard's strike was put out for a corner, Worrall's flag kick was deep and found Pigott, who headed just over the crossbar from close range.
Just after the half an hour mark, Deegan was given his marching orders, although the reaction of the home players didn't help the midfielder's cause.
With half time approaching, Bentley did excellently to tip over a Hylton drive from the edge of the box. However, from the resulting corner, O'Dowda's centre found Sam Long, with the U's man rising highest to power into the bottom corner of the net.
After the break, Blues came out looking sharp, and three minutes after the restart equalised through Pigott. A cross from the left from the boot of Coker once more and Pigott was there to nod down past Clarke and net his first goal in a Southend shirt.
Oxford substitute Wes Burns lashed high and wide on the hour mark before the front pairing of Pigott and Cassidy made way for Michael Timlin and Corr, respectively.
Blues went with on up front – Corr – as they looked to hold on to what they had. Bentley saved comfortably from O'Dowda with 15 minutes of the game remaining.
Blues were defending superbly with ten minutes of the game remaining, with Timlin denying a certain O'Dowda goal before Coker hacked the follow up effort off the line just moments later.
A minute later and Andy Whing tried his luck from long range, but his powerful shot flew just inches over Bentley's upright.
However, Blues nabbed what was the winning goal, when Corr tucked home from close range following a great Coker cut back.
Despite late Oxford pressure, Blues defended well, and in great numbers, whilst at the other end, substitute Jack Payne could have added gloss to the scoreline late on, when he dinked wide.
And deep into injury time, O'Dowda was put through on goal, breaking to offside trap. He was one on one with Bentley, and the Blues stopper produced an outstanding stop to deny the Oxford midfield man, rushing out to get a great block on the U's opening goalscorer and preserving Blues' slender lead.
It was enough, and Blues held on to cement their place in the Sky Bet League Two play-offs and extend their unbeaten run, to the delight of manager Phil Brown - who was sent to the stands after Corr's winning goal.
Blues: Bentley; White (c), Thompson, Binnom-Williams, Coker; Worrall (Payne, 78), Leonard, Deegan, Atkinson; Pigott (Timlin, 62), Cassidy (Corr, 62).
Un-used substitutes: P. Smith, Prosser, Weston, Coulthirst.