They were supposed to have been the Championship's whipping boys, playing in unchartered territory with an untried manager at a ramshackle old stadium that has hardly changed in 69 years.
Instead, they are the division's leading scorers, have just been given planning permission for a new ground on the outskirts of town and enter the Christmas fixture programme in the giddy heights of sixth place.
Colchester United added Stoke to their list of vanquished opponents on Saturday, dislodging the Potters from a top-six spot on goal difference. Tony Pulis' team arrived on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run and with a side packed with former Premiership players. Lee Hendrie, Michael Duberry, goalkeeper Steve Simonsen and Danny Higginbotham were all in the Stoke starting line-up, while Patrik Berger came off the bench late on.
Chances they had galore but they fluffed the lot. By contrast, Colchester took theirs, Jamie Cureton scoring two to make it 12 for the season before Richard Garcia finished Stoke off.
Cureton's partnership with Chris Iwelumo has yielded 22 goals, but no one is getting carried away, least of all the much-travelled striker. "In all my career I've never scored this many at this stage but it's a team effort," Cureton said. "To win games, we have to give it our maximum because we don't have the individual talent of some of the teams who can just turn it on.
"Our main aim was to stay in this division and 50 points is still the target but a lot of the boys want to prove they can play at this level."
Colchester hope to move into their new stadium by the spring of 2008 - by which time they intend to have become an established Championship side.
Goals: Cureton (2) 1-0; Cureton (17) 2-0; Garcia (63) 3-0.
Colchester United (4-4-2): Gerken; Halford, Baldwin, Brown, Barker; Duguid, Watson (Jackson, 85), Izzet, Garcia (Ephraim, 77); Iwelumo (Guy, 88), Cureton. Substitutes not used: Davison (gk), Richards.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Simonsen; Hoefkens, Duberry, Higginbotham, Hill; Lawrence, Russell (Eustace, 75), Brammer (Berger, 65), Hendrie; Fuller, Sidibe (Pericard, 69).
Substitutes not used: Sweeney, Dickinson.
Referee: K Wright (Cambridgeshire).
Booked: Colchester Cureton; Stoke Duberry, Fuller.
Man of the match: Cureton.
Attendance: 5,345.Reuse content