A LAST-GASP Darren Byfield goal gave ten-man Walsall an excellent 1-0 victory over Colchester United.
After Alex Nicholls put some pressure on Ben Williams as he made a clearance from a back-pass, Jamie Vincent did well at the other end to deny Anthony Wordsworth with a timely block.
With nine minutes on the clock, Kevin Lisbie broke the offside trap only to be denied by a good block from the alert Rene Gilmartin who spread himself well.
There was a teasing cross from Julian Gray into the danger zone which had to be scrambled behind by the visitors before a foul on Steve Jones as he looked to make progress, earned The Saddlers a free-kick in a dangerous position right on the edge of the area.
Gray stepped up to take with his left foot, but curled the ball well over the crossbar.
A low drive across the face of goal found Alex Nicholls in an offside position, then a cross from the left by Gray found Dwayne Mattis whose strike was superbly pushed over by Ben Williams in the Colchester goal as Walsall looked to build up a head of steam.
In heavy conditions, though, it started to develop into a game of nip-and-tuck as both sides looked to make something happen.
There was a flashpoint right on the stroke of half-time when Mark Hughes' challenge on Ashley Vincent on the half-way line saw him win the ball. However, the reaction of the Colchester player earned Hughes a straight red card to leave Walsall facing the second half with ten men.
Ashley Vincent was soon up on his feet and back involved in the action.
The second period started with a powerful run by Clayton McDonald which ended with him brought down as he approached the area. The resulting free-kick was blocked by the defensive wall from Jones.
Richard Taundry was booked for a foul as there was a decidedly fiesty start to the second half.
On 65 minutes, McDonald did well to deal with an awkward ball flung into the penalty area, whilst Gilmartin saved well from Clive Platt's powerful low drive, however, as Steven Gillespie turned the rebound home, the offside flag came to The Saddlers' rescue.
Matt Richards replaced Josh O'Keefe then Darren Byfield took the place of Alex Nicholls as Chris Hutchings introduced some fresh legs.
With time running out, Wordworth's strike was well kept out by Gilmartin as the ball came at hime through a crowd of players.
Some neat passing on the edge of the area by The U's ended with Gillespie firing straight down the throat of Gilmartin, before Wordsworth went within a whisker of snatching a late goal for the Essex outfit.
There was a late change as Peter Till replaced Jones and in stoppage time, a counter-attack from The Saddlers saw Darren Byfield break from the halfway line before twisting and turning and threading the ball home from a narrow angle to give The Saddlers a hard-earned and deserved victory.
PHOTOS: David Linney Photography