North End picked up their first win at Colchester since 1986 thanks to goals from Tom Clarke and an own goal after Chris Humphrey’s cross was turned in by U's defender Brian Wilson.
The Lilywhites took the lads just before the half hour mark; Tom Clarke with his first goal since October, powering a header in off the underside of the bar from Paul Gallagher’s corner.
Declan Rudd then saved Jabo Ibehre’s penalty, after being adjudged to have brought down Marcus Bean himself as the U’s almost immediate responded to going one behind.
The U’s levelled nine minutes after the interval, Ibehre with a curling shot into the top corner after a strong run down the left, but with eight minutes to go Chris Humphrey’s cross was turned home by Wilson from close range to give PNE a 2-1 win, their tenth on the road in 2013/14.
Wearing their changed red and black striped kit, Simon Grayson's men were without skipper John Welsh (knee) and Scott Wiseman (groin), but Craig Davies returned to the starting line-up, along with Humphrey and Paul Gallagher.
It was a blistering start for the visitors, playing towards the PNE fans in the first half; 17-goal top scorer Joe Garner seeing a shot deflected over the bar in the first minute, after Humphrey had made a driving run down the right.
The visitors defence needed to stay strong five minutes in, Tom Clarke and Jack King both putting their bodies on the line to make fine blocks, the latter from Ibehre 12 yards out.
Two minutes later and the cross bar was left rattling as Garner rose highest to meet another Humphrey right wing cross, which beat Walker, but came back off the middle of the bar.
The non-stop opening 15 minutes continued, PNE's No.7 having a good half, driving, then shooting from the right hand corner of the area after Gallagher’s clever lay-off, only for Ryan Dickson to make a fine block.
A minute later and Garner saw another shot deflected wide for a corner; with Walker wrong-footed. Gallagher, again in front of vocal PNE fans, delivered and Garner at the back post, got great spring, but headed over the bar from six yards out.
With 13 minutes on the clock Craig Davies saw yet another powerful driven shot from the right hand corner of the box fly inches over the bar, before a quiet period.
However, it was North End who brought the game back to life on 28 minutes. Gallagher had the chance to deliver yet another corner – PNE winning eight before the interval – and this time it was perfectly flighted to meet the powerful run of Tom Clarke, who headed in off the underside of the bar. The corner had been needlessly conceded corner by Magnus Okuonghae with a poor back header.
The U’s had an almost immediate chance for a riposte; referee David Phillips awarding them a penalty in the 31st minute, deciding Declan Rudd had fouled Marcus Bean as he slid out to save. Rudd was booked, but picked himself up, dusted himself down and dived the right way – to his left – to save Jabo Ibehre’s weak penalty.
But after the break the home side started brightly and drew level on 54 minutes; Ibehre again ran down the left and seemed to have lost the chance to shoot, but North End failed to clear and it came back to the forward who curled into the top right hand corner from the left hand corner of the box.
On 64 minutes stand-in visiting skipper Keith Keane found the ball at his feet after a Gallagher corner was flicked to the edge of the box, in the right corner, he struck the shot sweetly, but it was always rising and just over Walker’s cross bar.
With 16 minutes left there was a chance at either end, firstly Paul Gallagher chased a lost cause to keep the ball in and crossed for Joe Garner, who saw a downward header saved almost stick in the mud and in the end proved a comfortable save by Sam Walker and then on the break Declan Rudd did superbly to come out and smother at the feet of Ibehre once again.
North End went back in front with eight minutes left. Some good play started with Joe Garner in the middle of the park, playing a ball out to Chris Humphrey on the right; he drove to the byline before drilling the ball across that came off U’s defender Brian Wilson and into the middle of the goal past a helpless Walker.
Ryan Dickson made a superb tackle with two minutes to go to deny PNE skipper Keane a third, after the No.2 had been sent clean through the middle by a delicious through ball from young substitute Josh Brownhill, who had into the action with Stuart Beavon and Kevin Davies in the last quarter of an hour.
Four minutes were added on at the Weston Homes Community Stadium by official David Phillips, but there were no real threats for and North End recorded their first win at Colchester since the division four promotion season of 1986/87.
Colchester United line-up: Walker, Wright, Dickson, Okuonghae, Eastmond (Sears, 70), Bean, Ibehre, Eastman, Wilson, Massey (Morrison, 87), Vose. Subs not used: Cousins, Sanderson, Gilbey, Olufemi, Sesay.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Humphrey, Laird, Clarke, King, Wright, Keane, Kilkenny (Brownhill, 77), Gallagher, Garner (Beavon, 84), C Davies (K Davies, 76). Subs not used: Stuckmann, Holmes, Buchanan, Hume.
Attendance: 3,416 (402 away fans)
Referee: Mr D Phillips