Ryan Bowman scored a hat-trick as Exeter hit six to sink Colchester in Sky Bet League Two on a night when none of the top four at the start of play managed to win.
Matt Jay had given the Grecians a slender half-time advantage before the floodgates opened in the second half, with Josh Randall and a Bowman double taking the hosts out of sight.
Michael Folivi grabbed a consolation for the visitors before Bowman and Jay both scored in injury time to emphatically seal their side's first win in four games.
Scott Twine's long-range strike in the 23rd minute salvaged a 1-1 draw for leaders Newport at home to Walsall, who had taken the lead moments earlier through Elijah Adebayo.
Ben Tozer's second goal in as many games looked set to see second-placed Cheltenham home against third-placed Cambridge, but Paul Mullin's injury-time effort snatched a 1-1 draw.
Carlisle, who started the day in fourth place, went down 1-0 at Tranmere, for whom Corey Taylor sealed a winning start for new boss Keith Hill, with the only goal of the game coming in the 51st minute at Prenton Park.
Bottom club Southend had claimed their first and only win of the season 10 days ago against Walsall, but normal service was resumed as they fell 1-0 at home to Forest Green, for whom Jake Young scored in the 63rd minute.
And things look even bleaker for the Shrimpers after second-bottom Stevenage ended a run of 11 League Two games without a win with a 2-1 success over Port Vale.
Goals from Aramide Oteh and Danny Newton put the hosts in command but there were plenty of late nerves after Devante Rodney reduced the deficit with nine minutes remaining.
Calvin Miller's 27th minute-effort helped Harrogate to a 1-0 win at Mansfield, while Peter Kloso scored the only goal in Bolton's win by the same score at Scunthorpe.
Ian Holloway got the response he required from his Grimsby side in a 2-1 win at Crawley, just three days after an humiliating 5-0 thrashing at Tranmere.
Max Watters threatened to pile more woe onto the Mariners with a fourth minute opener but Matt Green and Max Wright scored either side of the interval to win it for the visitors.
Ashley Hunter's first-half brace proved enough for Salford to claim a 2-1 win over Morecambe, who replied through Cole Stockton, while Daniel Happe's 64th minute effort saw Leyton Orient sink Bradford.
Danny Rowe's double saw Oldham edge a seven-goal thriller at Barrow with five goals coming in the final 11 minutes.
Scott Quigley's opener for the hosts was cancelled out by Ben Garrity, and Rowe's first effort gave Oldham the half-time advantage.
Matthew Platt equalised in the 79th minute but Rowe's penalty put Oldham back in front and Conor McAleny made it 4-2 before a Carl Piergianni own goal completed the scoring.