The O’s bagged their first league victory against the U’s for the first time since 2003 thanks to an incredible 15-minute spell at the end of the first half, in a game that saw two penalties and two dismissals.
The O’s started brightly and threatened to open the score early into the game. A Jordan Maguire-Drew corner was recklessly dropped by U’s ‘keeper Dimitar Mitov, fortunately a man in yellow hooked the ball out of the six-yard-box.
The hosts looked to be direct in their attacking approach and exploit space in behind the O’s back line; Marvin Ekpiteta and Jamie Turley’s defensive partnership continued to blossom, and the pair stood strong against any bursts forward.
Cambridge began to dictate the tempo of the game after the 15-minute mark, controlling possession well in the middle of the pitch but failed to test goalkeeper Sam Sargeant and despite having more of the ball, Colin Calderwood’s team fell behind before the half hour mark.
Orient took the lead with their first effort on target through Jamie Turley. Jordan Maguire-Drew’s free-kick was flicked across the face of goal by Marvin Ekpiteta’s head and Jamie Turley volleyed home with his right foot.
Momentum swung in favour of the O’s who had the chance to double their lead from the spot after Lee Angol, who had his back to goal, was foolishly tripped by Elliot Ward.
Wright’s penalty was saved by Mitov but the Bulgarian failed to hold the ball and Wright pounced to tap home the rebound, to take his tally to seven for the season.
Tensions threatened to boil over towards the end of the half, with Referee Trevor Kettle forced to book players from both sides, including Orient’s Craig Clay and Lee Angol.
An already incredible half turned to ecstasy in stoppage time, when Jordan Maguire-Drew stepped up to power home a left-footed free-kick from 30-yards and hand Orient a handsome lead at the break.
Sargeant was called upon immediately after the restart, Harvey Knibbs wriggled free 18-yards from goal and hammered a shot towards the top corner, but the O’s ‘keeper acrobatically tipped the ball behind for a corner.
United were far better in the second half and continued to test the Orient defence. The home faithful thought they had pulled a goal back through Sam Smith, but Sargeant somehow flicked the header around the post.
At the other end, Lee Angol could have bagged a fourth O’s goal before the hour, but Mitov, collected the ball at his feet after the striker looked to round the Cambridge shot stopper.
The linesman denied Cambridge a goal for offside 25 minutes from time after Smith had nodded home from a free kick.
The home pressure eventually paid when Jack Roles’ long-range effort rustled the net, pulling the U’s within two goals of Orient with just over 20 minutes to play.
Fresh legs were soon introduced by Ross Embleton, who replaced George Marsh and Jordan Maguire-Drew with Hector Kyprianou and Matt Harrold 14 minutes from the end.
Cambridge were awarded a penalty in the closing ten minutes after Jamie Turley was penalised for a push on his opposition man, picking up a caution in the process. Smith stepped up and tucked the ball home, setting up an anxious climax to the game.
More drama followed as Reggie Lambe and Myles Judd were both shown a second yellow for separate offences, meaning both teams would finish the game with ten men.
Josh Coulson was applauded by both sets of fans as he made his way onto the field in place of James Brophy to bolster the O’s defence for the coming seven minutes of stoppage time.
Orient navigated the closing stages of the game professionally, defending determinedly to confirm a huge victory away from home.
CAMBRIDGE: Mitov, Knoyle (Dunk 62”), Jones, Taylor, Hannant, Lambe, Smith, Carruthers, Lewis, Knibbs (Richards 69”), Ward
SUBS: Burton, O’Neil, Maris, Darling, Roles
BOOKED: Hannant 40” Lambe 41” Taylor 76’
OFF: Lambe 83”
GOALS: Roles 69” Smith 82”
ORIENT: Sargeant, Judd, Turley, Ekpiteta, Happe, Wright, Clay, Marsh (Kyprianou 76”), Maguire-Drew (Harrold 76’’), Angol, Brophy (Coulson 88”)
SUBS: Gorman, Dayton, Soritiou,
BOOKED: Marsh 15” Clay 38” Angol 45” Judd 64” Brophy 67” Turley 81”
OFF: Judd 85”
GOALS: Turley 29” Wright 36” Maguire-Drew 45”
REF: Trevor Kettle
ATT: 5,408 (1,206 Away fans)