First half flowing football and dogged second half defending combined to earn United their first point of the season following a much improved performance from their long trip down to Colchester.
A return to action for Matt Robson and Lee Miller, coupled with the short-term signing of seasoned campaigner Danny Butterfield, could be just the tonic the Cumbrians needed following their disappointing start to the campaign.
Lady luck appeared to desert the Cumbrians yet again ahead of kick off when Sean O’Hanlon pulled out of the warm up with a groin problem. Paul Thirlwell was called up to the starting eleven to plug the gap at the back.
A side already low on confidence could have allowed set-back to affect them but they shook off the disappointment of losing one of their key players to take the game to a Colchester side who appeared to be caught in the headlights through the helter skelter opening exchanges.
David Amoo set the tone with a run down the right flank just after kick off and it needed a touch from Wilson to divert his cross behind for a corner. Matt Robson did well on the opposite wing when he overlapped with United staying forward but a smart save from Walker prevented a goal.
The good start from the visitors was rewarded with just four minutes on the clock when he picked up the pieces as Potts was tackled in midfield. The wide man set himself and crunched an unstoppable thunderbolt into the bottom corner.
Colchester looked for an immediate response and Gillespie had to stand tall to block a crisp volley as Wilson found a gap to exploit. But Carlisle looked confident and Miller twice went close when he lost his marker at set pieces. Both headers were firm but angled over the target.
It was end-to-end and the lively Jabo Ibehre worked hard to find some space on the edge of the box. He left Thirlwell in his wake and forced a great save from Gillespie as he thumped a blistering shot towards the top corner.
More good work involving Ibehre and Watt left Olefumi with options and he readied himself to celebrate as he curled a shot past the defender. Gillespie was beaten but the ball ricocheted away to safety off the underside of the bar. Brian Wilson raced in to claim it and he brought the crowd to its feet with another effort which went agonisingly close.
Carlisle weathered the mini-storm and created chances of their own as Miller challenged for every ball forward. He worked a one-two with Potts and forced Walker to dive as he tried to guide it into the bottom corner.
The action ebbed and flowed as both sides created chances and more trickery from Ibehre put him into a good area. He had two in support but he went for it from a tight angle and Gillespie got just about enough on it to send it wide.
Robson was enjoying his return to the fold and a chest down from a Miller flick took him past Wilson. The falling stopper was beaten by the attempt but it was always heading away to safety.
The home side kept the pressure on as half time approached and Olefumi wheeled away in frustration as he stabbed a weak shot at Gillespie having done the hard work to get into a shooting position. The U’s resorted to long range shots with Eastman and Massey sending hopeful efforts over the bar.
But it was David Amoo who almost added to the first half tally when he showed strength to shrug Olefumi off the ball. He cut back inside and poked the ball through the defender’s legs but Walker was able to gather.
Colchester upped the pace after the break and a Watt run from a Sears pass found Carlisle light at the back. The former-Arsenal man twisted away from his marker and stroked a powerful shot just wide of the target.
A swirling cross then found Massey in space but he lost his composure and scuffed a weak effort past the post. Freddie Sears started to see more of the ball and he tried one from distance as he took a pass in his stride. Gillespie spotted it late but adjusted in time to beat it away.
The home pressure was made to tell on 71 minutes when a ball into the box tempted Gillespie off his line. The defence appeared to be static as Freddie Sears beat the offside trap before putting a bulge in the back of the net.
Lee Miller tried to reclaim the lead for United when he somehow wriggled his way through two tackles as he took the ball to the byline. Walker had to make the save at his near post as the big striker tried to squeeze his shot in.
It was a better spell for the Cumbrians and Noble had a goal chalked off for offside when he moved too quickly to finish off a low cross from Berrett. David Amoo then took his eye off a dipping corner delivery as he moved off his marker only to head the ball wide.
The home side turned the pressure on in the closing stages and Sears wasted a good opening when he screwed a Watt pass well off target. Gillespie was in top form again late in the day when he somehow clawed a goal-bound header from substitute Alex Gilbey over his bar.
Ibehre and Sears kept the crosses coming but strong and determined defending gave United the point they deserved from what had been a very hard-fought game.
U's - Sears (71)
United - Robson (4)
United - Berrett (33), Noble (65), Potts (83), Thirlwell (90)
Colchester United - Walker, David Wright (Gilbey 64), Olefumi, Okuonghae, Eastmond, Watt (Drey Wright 85), Sears, Ibehre, Eastman, Wilson, Massey. Subs - Cousins, Thompson, Morrison, Bond, Bean.
Carlisle United - Gillespie, Butterfield, Livesey, Thirlwell, Black, Potts, Berrett, Noble (Guy 75), Amoo (Symington 90), Miller, Robson (Gillies 86). Subs - Fleming, Feely, Campbell, Beck.
Referee - Mr Gavin Ward
Attendance - 3,573 (197 away fans)