Carlisle United gave as good as they got at the Weston Homes Community Stadium but they were left to rue a host of missed chances as the U's continued their revival under Joe Dunne courtesy of two goals from a mad six minute first half spell.
"I can't criticise my players for the way they approached this game because they have played well," manager Greg Abbott said. "There was a 15-minute spell where we let them come at us and we're disappointed that we let them score during that period.
"But we've gone on to create some unbelievable openings and it's difficult for us to understand how we haven't come away with at least a point, if not better. We could have been at 3-2 within seven minutes of the second half starting and the difference has been that they scored from the crosses they put into the box.
"There are many, many positives for us to take into Tuesday night and that's what we will focus on over the next couple of days."
United could have had a penalty with their first attack of the game when Matt Robson went on the overlap. Garner showed for it and he tumbled to the floor as he appeared to be shoved in the back. The officials looked closely before waving play on.
James Berrett then spotted Garner making a run and the pass allowed the striker to cut back inside. He went for a curler into the top corner but he pulled the shot into the stands.
Peter Murphy challenged for a corner from Berrett as Carlisle stayed forward and the loose ball sat up nicely in front of Higginbotham. He took a touch and stepped to one side before drilling his effort over the bar.
A nice ball over the top from Noble released Garner from his marker and he had the goal at his mercy as he considered his options. He drew the keeper but was left with his head in his hands as he popped the ball just wide of the upright.
Colchester finally settled and a cross from Wilson found Wordsworth in a good position. Peter Murphy was on the far post and he made the block before Gillespie was troubled.
The young United stopper earned his corn moments later when Eastman split the defence with a wonderful pass. Eastmond found himself one-on-one but the big keeper raced off his line to make the save. Ibehre picked up the pieces and it needed another save, this time on the dive, to protect the clean sheet.
It was a better spell for the home side and Wordsworth carved the Carlisle right flank to pieces with an inch perfect pass. Watt wasted no time in getting the ball across and Eastmind rattled it home from very close range.
The lead was doubled just six minutes later when Watt latched onto a ball over the top. It was another firm delivery into the mix and Jabo Ibehre said thank you very much as he volleyed it into the roof of the net.
Home tails were up and Bean was next to find a way through as he slipped the ball past Robson. Gillespie had spotted the danger and he did well to complete another last ditch save. The keeper was the man of the moment again when he somehow managed to punch an Eastman header away to safety as he launched himself across his goal line to reach what was a beautifully angled header.
Former-United target Sanchez Watt showed his pace and skill when he carried the ball from deep before unleashing a shot which skimmed the bottom of the post. And the woodwork came into play once more when the same player tried to place an effort from just outside the box. Gillespie was rooted to the spot as he watched it bounce behind for a goal kick.
The Cumbrians will look back at the opening fifteen minutes of the second half with disbelief as they spurned chance after chance to get themselves into the game.
Mike Edwards was first to show shyness when he arrived late to meet a deep free kick from Murphy. He had the width of the goal to aim at but he misjudged the connection and succeeded only in popping it wide.
Frank Simek then came forward in support of a flowing move and he had options as he broke away from his man. He tried to guide his toe poke past Cousins and he was left with his head in his hands as he passed it wide of the target.
Joe Garner then crunched a header wide when it looked easier to score as Noble picked him out with a swirling cross. And Peter Murphy was unlucky when he skipped through challenge after challenge before forcing a fingertip save out of the alert U's stopper.
Colchester changed their shape and tried to stop Carlisle from playing as they protected their two goals and the visitors were restricted to long range shots with Edwards and Garner both pulling the trigger.
The hosts still had their moments and Gillespie had to drop low to push a blistering strike from Massey behind for a corner as it threatened his near post.
The day was summed up for Carlisle just before full time when Symington sent the cross of the day into the area. Berrett jumped highest only to head wide when, yet again, it looked easier to find the target.
Colchester - Eastmond (25), Ibehre (31)
United - Edwards (78)
Colchester - Cousins, Rose, Okuonghae, Ibehre (Henderson 80), Bean, Eastman, Wilson (White 46), Massey, Wordsworth, Eastmond, Watt (Sears 60). Subs - Duguid, Gilbey, Hamilton, Pentney.
United - Gillespie, Simek, Edwards, Murphy, Robson, Higginbotham (Potts 73), Noble (Beck 80), Berrett, Chantler, Garner, Cadamarteri (Symington 58). Subs - Collin, Livesey, Welsh, Bugno.
Referee - Mr Steven Rushton
Attendance - 3,335 (209 away fans)