SOUTHEND United conceded two goals in the final eight minutes to suffer a disappointing 3-2 defeat against Exeter City at Roots Hall this afternoon.
Two goals from centre-back from Mark Phillips seemed to have secured victory for the Shrimpers.
But the Grecians had other ideas and hit back to secure their first victory of 2014.
Exeter took just 10 minutes to take the lead when a poor clearance from Daniel Bentley was headed forward by Arron Davies in to the path of Jimmy Keohane who netted with an assured low finish from 12 yards.
However, the Shrimpers were behind for just two minutes as Phillips rose high to head home Ben Coker’s right wing free-kick into the bottom right hand corner of the net from close range.
Exeter were soon back on top and only a fine save from Bentley stop then regaining the lead as he instinctively kept out a six yard header from Keohane.
Moments later, the Blues shot stopper did well to tip a low 20 yard effort from John O’Flynn around the right post.
And, having survived those scares, the Shrimpers hit back to go in front with Phillips again on the target as the centre-back headed home a driven right wing corner from Kevan Hurst.
The hat-trick hunting Phillips then headed a right wing free-kick from Coker over the crossbar from 12 yards before play switched back to the other end of the field with Bentley doing well to tip a low shot from Keohane wide of the left post.
Blues responded with Coker curling a 25 yard free-kick just inches wide of the right post but, at the start of the second, Exeter were almost back level when a deflected Liam Sercombe shot went only just wide of the left post.
The Shrimpers could then have extended their lead when Exeter goalkeeper Christy Pym sent an attempted clearance straight to Barry Corr but the striker could only shoot well wide of the right post from 25 yards.
With Southend staying on top, Adam Thompson then headed Will Atkinson’s cross over the North Bank net from close range following a well worked short corner.
In a bid to stay on top, Blues soon made two substitutes in quick succession with Bedsente Gomis replacing Lee Barnard for his Shrimpers debut and Freddy Eastwood coming on for Corr who appeared to be struggling with an injury.
But it was not enough to stop the visitors coming back in to the game and the Grecians equalised in stunning fashion in the 82nd minute when Sercombe drilled a stunning 25 yard shot in to the top right hand corner of the net.
Blues boss Phil Brown responded by making his third change as young striker Jason Williams was handed his debut in attack after replacing Michael Timlin.
And Williams almost made it an afternoon to remember as he charged forward before seeing his low shot blocked by Pym who then easily collected a poor volley from Hurst after the winger had been picked out by Gomis’ right wing cross.
That miss soon increased in significance too as, with 87 minutes on the clock, Exeter bagged a late winner when substitute Eliot Richards worked his way in off the left flank before drilling home a low shot.