Jimmy Smith struck a fine hat-trick as Crawley secured a 3-2 win at in-form Colchester and inflicted upon the hosts their first home defeat since November.
Colchester almost took a fifth-minute lead when Denny Johnstone and Kurtis Guthrie were both denied by keeper Glenn Morris.
The Us did go ahead in the 18th minute through Johnstone, who fired past Morris after Brennan Dickenson's cross had not been properly cleared.
But Colchester's lead lasted only five minutes as skipper Smith headed home Dean Cox's corner from close range.
And the Reds went ahead 11 minutes before half-time when Smith sent a superb first-time shot into the top corner past Colchester keeper Sam Walker after Enzio Boldewijn had laid Kaby Djalo's cross-field pass into his path.
Crawley went in at the break ahead and Smith completed his hat-trick seven minutes after the interval when he fired in a long-range shot that crept past Walker.
Dickenson curled home a fine free-kick in stoppage-time to give the Us hope but Crawley held out.