Lady luck deserted Carlisle United yet again at Roots Hall as they were denied what appeared to be a certain penalty, at 1-0 down, to then go on and lose the game as the home side took heart from the decision and bounced back to grab a killer second goal.
Carlisle had the better of the opening exchanges and an early cross from Brough caused problems as Southend struggled to clear their lines. Wyke had a shot blocked as he reacted to the loose ball, and Young did well to recover it as it spun loose outside the box. His cross was perfect as Rigg moved off his man but he could only send a free header right at the keeper.
Dempsey rifled a decent attempt just wide, when it looked to all and sundry that it was going in, and Wyke had a goal bound thunderbolt blocked as he turned his man and went for glory.
A slip from Thompson allowed Rigg to go one-on-one with Smith, but White raced across as soon as he spotted the danger. The striker hesitated and that allowed the challenge to be made, just as he was about to pull the trigger.
The Shrimps responded with a good spell of pressure but they couldn't find a way past the stubborn back line as United held their shape. Worrall almost found a chink in the armour when he raced onto a through ball from Timlin but he decided to shoot early and it was easy for the keeper to gather.
Carlisle were let off the hook when they lost possession from a Brough free kick and the home side broke from deep and at pace. Pigott was played through by Worrall but O'Hanlon nipped in to make a vital intervention.
Southend started to edge on top as the half wore on and Brough executed a fantastic sliding tackle to stop Corr from setting Pigott free during yet another lightning quick break. Pigott was guilty of fluffing his lines once again when he was handed an acre of space and he was left with just Speigel to beat. The big stopper stood his ground and he was able to grasp another comfortable shot.
The Shrimps kept the pressure on and Atkinson was left with an unexpected clear sight of the target when Thirlwell mistimed a volleyed clearance on the edge of his own box. He let fly with a vicious snapshot which curled just past the angle of post and bar.
Carlisle refused to crack and they almost nicked the lead just ahead of the break when Amoo pulled wide on the right. He cut it back, through the retreating defender’s legs, and Dempsey’s eyes lit up as he arrived late, and at pace. Smith was beaten but the deflected shot spun in the air and shaved the outside of the upright.
Southend picked up the pace after the break and they took when they kept the pressure on from a wicked corner delivery. Spiegel hooked a looping effort from Atkinson off the line but Michael Timlin kept his eye on it as it ran free and he swept a beauty into the top corner as he caught the ball with a clean, crisp volley.
Atkinson should have added to the tally when he was left unmarked in the six yard box, but he couldn’t keep his header down and it dropped harmlessly onto the roof of the net.
Carlisle were denied what looked a certain penalty when the referee pointed for a goal kick as Smith clipped Rigg inside the box, and the travelling contingent were left open mouthed as even the home bench admitted that they'd completely got away with it.
Matt Young tested Smith's concentration when he shot from distance through a ruck of bodies, but the keeper adjusted his feet well to parry it away. Rigg and Sweeney had half chances, but the hosts all but put the game beyond doubt when they bagged their second of the day. A deep cross from Timlin was nodded back across the face of goal by Worrall and Barry Corr made it nine for the season with a simple tap in from close range.
The game settled into a pattern of half chances and what might have been as Carlisle tried to claw their way back, but it was Southend who were left to celebrate as they ended their own disappointing run of two straight defeats to keep the heat on at the top end of the table.
Southend - Timlin (50), Corr (72)
United - Rigg (69)
Southend United - Smith, White, Coker, Thompson, Prosser, Worrall (Hurst 88), Timlin, Corr, Atkinson, Leonard, Pigott (Payne 79). Subs - Weston, Coulthirst, Deegan, Binnom-Williams, Barrett.
Carlisle United - Spiegel, Young, Archibald-Henville, O'Hanlon, Brough, Amoo (Asamoah 87), Thirlwell (Gillies 74), Sweeney, Dempsey, Rigg, Wyke. Subs - Hanford, Buddle, Meppen-Walter, Blackburn, Griffith.
Referee - Mr Trevor Kettle
Attendance - 5,576 (325 away fans)