Frank Nouble missed a stoppage-time penalty as Colchester wasted the chance to end Sky Bet League Two leaders Crewe’s unbeaten run which now stretches to seven league games after a goalless draw at Gresty Road.
The U’s finished the game with 10 men as substitute Theo Robinson was sent off late on following an off-the-ball incident involving Crewe’s Nicky Hunt after the penalty was awarded.
Colchester wasted two good chances to take a first-half lead. First Nouble completely miscued as he attempted to apply a close-range finish to Luke Norris’ cross.
Then minutes later, Norris was put through on goal but the frontman’s shot failed to trouble goalkeeper Will Jaaskelainen.
Crewe dominated possession and Owen Dale was an outlet on the right flank with several of his dangerous crosses flying across the visitors’ box only to fail to get a finishing touch.
But the Railwaymen’s only true effort on goal in the first half was a tame shot from Ryan Wintle which the midfielder skewed wide.
They improved their threat after the break and Charlie Kirk shot into the side netting after being offered a sight at goal by Tommy Lowery.
Wintle went closer after he ended a powerful run into the box by driving across the face of goal with the ball agonisingly just missing the far corner.
Nouble’s shooting was much improved when he let fly from 20 yards in the closing minutes only to be denied by a flying save from Jaaskelainen.
But he failed to show his marksmanship from 12 yards after he drew a stoppage-time penalty from a foul by Hunt.
Referee Adam Haines sent off Colchester’s Robinson for an off-the-ball incident before Nouble had his spot-kick saved superbly by Jaaskelainen in the sixth minute of added time.