SOUTHEND United staged a stunning second half fight-back to see off Walsall 3-2 in a thrilling encounter at Roots Hall this afternoon.

The Shrimpers seemed to heading for defeat when their former midfielder fired the Saddlers into a 2-0 lead.

But goals from Nile Ranger, Anton Ferdinand and Simon Cox saw Blues pick up what had appeared to be an unlikely three points.

Despite the late drama, the game started slowly with Southend striker Ranger heading Stephen McLaughlin’s left wing cross wide of the right post before the striker wasted an even clearer chance to score in the 16th minute of the match.

The forward was picked out by John White’s right wing cross following a fine move involving Luke Amos and Will Atkinson but could only head over the crossbar from close range.

Two minutes later, the wasted opportunity increased in significance with Moussa opening the scoring.

The Belgian midfielder had replaced the injured Erhun Oztumer after just 15 minutes and soon made his presence felt as he converted a left wing cross from Joe Edwards with an assured right footed finish from 12 yards.

Seven minutes later, Moussa was at it again as he doubled the Saddlers’ lead with another neat finish.

Edwards was again the provider as he latched onto a poor clearance from Southend goalkeeper Ted Smith before delivering a left wing cross which was poorly dealt with by Ryan Inniss, enabling Moussa to fire home from 12 yards.

The shell-shocked Shrimpers came close to getting back in the game in the 35th minute when Anthony Wordsworth’s well struck 20 yard volley was impressively tipped over the crossbar by Walsall shot-stopper Neil Etheridge.

Six minutes into the second half, Blues boss Phil Brown made a double substitution in a bid to liven up his side as attack-minded right-back Jason Demetriou replaced Ryan Inniss and Theo Robinson took the place of Tottenham Hotspur loanee Amos to partner Ranger in attack.

After making the alterations, the Shrimpers got back into the game in the 63rd minute following a quickly taken free kick from Ben Coker.

The left-back rolled the ball into the path of Will Atkinson whose left wing cross was headed home by Ranger for his first Southend goal at Roots Hall.

Moments later, Demetriou sent a long range shot flashing wide of the left post against his former side before the Cypriot failed to connect cleanly with a left wing cross from McLaughlin well when placed in front of goal.

With the Shrimpers continuing to push for an equaliser, Robinson then saw a goalbound effort blocked by Edwards before his 25 yard shot was tipped over by Etheridge.

In a further bid to get back level, Southend boss Brown sent top goalscorers Simon Cox on to replace Will Atkinson in the 74th minute and just two minutes later the hosts were back level, with Ferdinand on target.

The Shrimpers skipper reacted sharply after a Wordsworth free-kick had been half cleared and netted with a well taken volley from 12 yards.

And Southend’s thrilling comeback was completed seven minutes from time when Cox curled a brilliant 20 yard free-kick into the top left hand corner of the net.