Bristol Rovers completed a remarkable second-half turnaround to come from 2-0 down to defeat a stunned Southend United 4-2 at the Memorial Stadium.
Blues had taken a deserved lead when Brandon Goodship’s low cross was fired in from close range by Tom Hopper, who scored the winner here last season.
Goodship then doubled Southend’s advantage before the interval, getting on the end of a defence-splitting pass from Stephen McLaughlin with Blues more than worth their two-goal lead.
But the wheels would fall off shortly after the restart as Jonson Clarke-Harris won a penalty thanks to a foul by Elvis Bwomono, before sending Nathan Bishop the wrong way from the spot.
And shortly after Abu Ogogo would bring the two sides level as he latched onto a loose ball inside the area to slot the ball into the bottom corner and make it 2-2.
Ed Upson then gave Rovers the lead with a brilliantly taken half-volley that thundered beyond Bishop before Alfie Kilgour’s header completed the turnaround.
After a first-half of many positives for Sol Campbell’s side, Blues will be hugely disappointed not to have come away with at least something, while Rovers climb into the play-off places with the win.
Off the back of Campbell’s first point as Blues boss at Burton Albion in midweek, the Southend boss made two changes for the trip to the Memorial Stadium.
Mark Milligan returned from suspension and Richard Taylor came in for the injured Nathan Ralph as Southend started brightly at the Memorial Stadium, looking particularly dangerous down the flanks.
Brandon Goodship put in a beauty of a first-time cross to pick out Stephen McLaughlin who blazed over on the volley before McLaughlin crossed for Tom Hopper who got underneath his header.
It was a case though of third time lucky for the visitors as Blues took the lead with their third chance on goal as Hopper scored from close range to give Southend the lead inside quarter of an hour.
Goodship put in a superb, low cross into the danger zone which Hopper was more than happy to tap home from inside the six-yard box and put Blues into a deserving lead.
Southend’s start to the game belied their league position and only a brilliant reaction save from Anssi Jaakkola prevented Campbell’s side from going further in front.
Sam Mantom’s corner from the right was flicked towards goal by Timothee Dieng and look destined for the back of the net before Jaakkola tipped the ball onto the frame of the goal to keep it at 1-0.
The home fans were getting increasingly frustrated with their side as Southend continued to come forward with intent and Hopper saw an effort from a tight angle deflect wide for a corner.
And then, almost unbelievably, Blues would go on to double their advantage before the interval as Goodship grabbed Southend’s second of the afternoon.
McLaughlin played a fantastic defence-splitting ball which ran perfectly for the run of Goodship, with the Blues number 14 having the calmness to slide the ball past Jaakkola and into the back of the net.
Southend were more than deserving of their two-goal lead and it could have gotten even better for the visitors before the break as Jason Demetriou got goal side and forced a save out of Jaakkola.
Rovers needed the next goal to go their way if they were to get back into the game and within 10 seconds of the restart, Tom Nichols got goal side and forced a save out of Nathan Bishop.
Moments later and the home side got back in it as Jonson Clarke-Harris was brought down inside the penalty area by Elvis Bwomono, before dusting himself off to score from the spot.
That goal gave the home side the momentum and they went close to levelling when Clarke-Harris headed the ball down to Sercombe who fired over on the half-volley.
But The Gas wouldn’t have to wait long for an equaliser as Abu Ogogo latched onto Richard Taylor’s header to slot the ball into the bottom corner and cancel out Southend’s two-goal advantage.
Blues had been blown away by a resurgent Rovers but they had a chance to restore their lead on the counter as Stephen Humphrys’ got away, teeing the ball up for Sam Mantom who slashed wide.
That would turn out to be a chance that Southend would rue missing as Graham Coughlan’s Rovers side would complete their second-half turnaround with Ed Upson scoring an unbelievable third.
Southend thought they’d cleared the danger, heading the ball out as far as Upson, but he had other ideas as he chested the ball down and thundered it past a stationary Bishop on the half-volley.
The goal was brilliantly taken by Upson but was harsh on Campbell’s side who looked to be coming away from the Memorial Ground without anything to show for their endeavour.
And the home side would make the points safe with a little under 10 minutes remaining as Tony Craig’s header across goal was directed into the net by Alfie Kilgour to send Rovers into the top six.
Bristol Rovers XI: Jaakkola, Little, Ogogo, Craig (C), Upson (Hargreaves 90+3’), Sercombe, Clarke-Harris (Smith 88’), Nichols (Adeboyejo 71’), Leahy, Kilgour, Rodman. Subs Not Used: Van Stappershoef, Kelly, Tomlinson, Hoole
Blues XI: Bishop, Bwomono, Milligan, Dieng (C), Hopper (Humphrys 52’), McLaughlin, Goodship (Acquah 84’), Kiernan, Mantom, Demetriou (Hamilton 63’), Taylor. Subs Not Used: Oxley, Cox, Hutchinson, Kinali
Referee: James Oldham
Assistants: Hristo Karaivanov & Marvyn Amphlett
Fourth Official: Stevan Plane
Bristol Rovers: Jonson Clarke-Harris (p)48’, Abu Ogogo 56’, Ed Upson 75’, Alfie Kilgour 81’
Southend United: Tom Hopper 13’, Brandon Goodship 36’
Bristol Rovers: Mark Little 25’, Tony Craig 27’, Abu Ogogo 42’
Southend United: Rob Kiernan 45’, Richard Taylor 85’
Attendance: 6,797 (347 Away Fans)