Walsall manager Dean Smith hailed former Manchester United striker Febian Brandy for his second-half goal that clinched his side's first win in 17 league and cup matches.
Brandy, 23, burst clear in the 62nd minute, rounded Colchester goalkeeper Mark Cousins and whipped the ball into an empty net to register his second goal for the club, lifting Walsall above Colchester in the table with their 1-0 win.
Smith said: "He always seemed to have the extra yard to get away from players, but in the first half I thought it was going to be one of those days for him when his chances didn't go in and he tormented their full-back."
He added: "I have always said Febian had potential and now he has a platform at this club to show it. He's energetic and full of enthusiasm, but doesn't live off the fact that he was a young starlet at Manchester United."
Brandy has missed a number of games early in the season with a hamstring strain and his second goal for the club handed Colchester their fifth successive defeat, enabling the Saddlers to leapfrog them with a three-point advantage.
Smith, whose side had wasted two-goal leads at home four times this season, said: "I think we deserved to win and thankfully we got across the line this time."
Brandy had one shot blocked on the goal line in the first half and drove another good chance wide in the 27th minute before former Walsall striker Jabo Ibehre, who later went off with a pulled muscle near his rib cage, lobbed against the crossbar in the 29th minute.
And in a nail-biting finish big U's defender Josh Thompson saw his towering header hit the woodwork in the 90th minute. Colchester boss Joe Dunne said: "The players are down at the moment because they don't like losing, but after a couple of days with their families at Christmas, hopefully that will kick-start them again.
"It's a long time since we were still in a game at half-time, we have been chasing games, and if Jabo's shot had hit the underside of the bar and gone in...It's tight in this league. I think the top six take care of themselves and we play four of them in our next four games."
Dunne revealed that Colchester had signed Portsmouth winger Jack Compton, who would be available to play in January, and is in talks with two other players in a bid to strengthen his squad.