Watford, whose eight-point lead in the Championship had dwindled to one in the space of the previous month, pulled out of their stall impressively last night as they stretched the gap again after recovering from being two goals down within half an hour.
After seeing his team recover from the brink of a fourth consecutive defeat, Watford's manager, Aidy Boothroyd, declared that this was his side's best performance of the season.
"It's a long season, and just because you have a run of form it doesn't mean you are going to romp away with the league. We've let ourselves down in the last couple of weeks, but things do turn around in this game.
"What happened today was hardly part of our game-plan. It was a bit concerning, to say the least. But it was important we didn't lose tonight, and I felt we were together as a team."
The team huddle after the final whistle helped to convince Boothroyd that the team who began the season as favourites to return straight away to the Premier League had the spirit to achieve that goal.
It was the reverse fixture at Vicarage Road on 10 November which marked the start of Watford's dip, a 2-2 draw which was followed by those three losses.
Boothroyd accused his players of lacking energy and passion. A hectic opening did little to assuage his doubts as slack defending from two corners allowed Clive Platt and then Matt Connolly to profit. The full-back, Jordan Stewart almost pulled a goal back with a free-kick which left the bar shuddering just before the half-hour, but Watford who lost keeper Mart Poom with a groin injury remained vulnerable.
Energy and passion were resurfacing further upfield, however, as the visitors drew level. First Marlon King's charge down the inside-right channel in the 40th minute finished with a deadly low cross-shot, and, in the next coherent move of the game, the rampaging figure of the midfielder, John-Joe O'Toole, headed home a cross from the right by Tommy Smith.
Colchester's spirits rose when Teddy Sheringham MBE arrived as a substitute on the hour, but within two minutes they fell after Smith cleverly beat George Elokobi on the right to provide a cross which Tamas Priskin headed home.
Colchester United (4-4-2): Gerken; Duguid, Connolly (Baldwin, 90), Virgo, Elokobi; Yeates, Jackson, Izzet (Guttridge, 83), McLeod (Sheringham, 62); Lisbie, Platt. Substitutes not used: Cousins (gk), Guy.
Watford (4-4-2): Poom (Lee, 35); Doyley, Shittu, DeMerit, Stewart; Smith, O'Toole, Williamson, McAnuff (Francis, 84); Priskin (D Henderson, 72), King. Substitutes not used: Jackson, Ainsworth.
Referee: T Kettle (Rutland)