Cambridge were back in action following their enforced break last weekend looking to build on their unbeaten three-game run which had helped them climb away from the bottom two places.
United were looking to push on from what manager Steven Pressley had described as their 'best performance since I arrived' at Forest Green last Saturday and, with eight games left to go, a return to the play-off places was top of the agenda.
The Blues kicked towards the Waterworks End in the first half but it was the Abbeymen who fashioned the first chance, and took the lead, with just three minutes on the clock. Jevani Brown picked up unexpected possession in midfield and his slide rule pass invited Hepburn-Murphy to burst through. He left Collin with no chance as he stroked the ball into the bottom corner.
Carlisle tried to make immediate amends and O'Hare and Hope combined well as they worked their way into the box. Devitt arrived late but his attempt at placing a curled effort into the net was slightly askew and it bent past the upright.
A surge from Thomas on the right flank took him past his man and he cut the ball back into the mix as he reached the edge of the six-yard box. Taylor was there to hook it clear before Hope could make any kind of contact.
Cambridge looked confident through the opening 15 minutes but Devitt wasn't too far away as he cut in from the left touchline before letting fly from 25-yards. Keeper Dimitar Mitov was rooted to the spot as the rasper edged just past the angle of post and bar.
It was Mitov who kept Jones at bay moments later when Hope first controlled a difficult ball over the top before laying it back into the midfielder's path. A cleanly struck thunderbolt was parried by the unsighted stopper and he reacted quickly to pick up the loose pieces.
The vistitors kept trying to get forward and a series of teasing crosses had to be dealt with as Ibehre and Hepburn-Murphy stayed tight to Collin.
But United looked in determined mood and Villa loanee Callum O'Hare thought he'd done enough just before the half hour when he dropped a shoulder to leave his man in his wake on the edge of the box. The ball whipped towards the roof of the net but Mitov got a hand to it to send it over the bar.
A diagonal pass from Gerrard found Grainger hugging the touchline with United suddenly finding space, and he stepped inside before having a shot blocked. United kept the forward momentum going and Slater was next to go close when he let fly having beaten his man. Mitov was able to watch it rise high on this occasion.
Carlisle were finally rewarded for their efforts on 37 minutes when O’Hare protected the ball as he waited for a runner from midfield. Jamie Devitt duly obliged and he scored his first goal for just over a month as he smashed an unstoppable first time effort into the back of the net via the underside of the bar.
United survived a scare moments before the break when Ibehre played Hepburn-Murphy clean through. Collin raced off his line to make a superb save just as the striker set himself to celebrate.
A thumping low effort from Grainger took two deflections and left Hope wrong-footed right in front of goal as the Blues kept pushing on, but they were the team who headed down the tunnel with smiles on their faces when Nathan Thomas started and finished a move with the help of the lively Callum O'Hare. The Villa loanee bounced a ball back into the winger's path and Mitov could do nothing as a stunning strike nestled in the back of his net.
A superb Carlisle move at the start of the second period saw the Blues work their way from back to front having moved the ball quickly. Grainger's cross from the left was hacked away, but the hosts camped forward as they recycled the move. Screams for handball echoed round the ground as the ball pinged around inside the box, and Hope was disappointed when he volleyed a touch from Parkes the wrong side of the nets.
The same striker felt the same level of disappointment when he was sent into the final third courtesy of another great ball from O'Hare. He beat his man but his powerful drive skimmed the top of the woodwork.
Heroics from Adam Collin kept former United favourite Jabo Ibehre off the scoresheet when he got on the end of an instinctive cross from Maris. His toe-poked volley was going in until Collin readjusted to fingertip it round the post.
But it was a short-lived reprieve as a free kick from deep was played into the path of the Cambridge front man. He stretched out a leg before lifting the ball over the advancing keeper.
Carlisle's in-form stopper was the man of the moment again as the visitors went in search of a third goal. Brown was played behind the back four but Collin spread himself to make another excellent block.
A winding run from Regan Slater mesmerised the visiting defence as he took the ball from the halfway line into the area. It fell nicely for Hope, who had time to set himself, but his lofted shot hit the bar and spooned high into the air. Scougall tried to volley it first time but it was a scuffed effort and Mitov gathered it in.
Right back Brad Halliday sent a shot wide as the visitors played their part in what was a tense close to the game, and Callum O'Hare did the same at the other end as the hosts continued to try to play their football to find a way through.
But the whistle blew on a share of the spoils with United left to thank Adam Collin as he saved from Brown when the forward had been put clean through with seconds left to play.
Carlisle United - Devitt (37), Thomas (45)
Cambridge United - Hepburn-Murphy (3), Ibehre (69)
Carlisle United - Jones (50), Grainger (80)
Carlisle United - Collin, Miller, Gerrard, Parkes, Grainger, Slater, Jones, O'Hare, Thomas, Devitt (Scougall 75), Hope (Kennedy 89). Subs - Gray, Liddle, Glendon, Simpson, Branthwaite.
Cambridge United - Mitov, Halliday, Carroll, Taft, Taylor, Deegan, Hepburn-Murphy (Amoo 51), Ibehre (Jones 71), Maris, Brown, Coulson (Lewis 73). Subs - Forde, Dunk, Darling, John.
Referee - Mr Andy Haines
Attendance - 4,673 (214 away fans)