An early free kick for the Saddlers was taken by Rory Holden and the strike deflected off the wall and looped horribly, but fortunately over the bar with Sargeant rooted to the spot.
Orient hit the target five minutes into the game through Ruel Sotiriou who flicked on Jordan Maguire-Drew’s free kick with his head, but Roberts saved comfortably.
Defender Jamie Turley stretched to clear a teasing low cross from Wes McDonald after the Walsall wide man created some space with his quick feet and looked to find a red shirt in the middle.
Both teams wasted early possession, particularly in the final third, with neither side conjuring a clear-cut opportunity in the opening 20 minutes.
Danny Guthrie flashed a dangerous free kick across the face of goal 22 minutes in; any sort of contact would have been sure to divert the ball into the goal, but the O’s were relieved to see it pass everyone and go out for a goal kick.
Immediately down the other end, the ball fell kindly to Sotiriou, who lashed the ball high and wide from ten yards out following some good build up play between Josh Wright and Myles Judd.
Josh Gordon was denied by a super save from Sam Sargeant who got down well to his left to block a close range shot after the ball bobbled around the penalty area.
Gordon again went close to opening the score for the hosts, flashing a volley a couple of yards wide after meeting Rory Holden’s corner.
Five minutes from the break Craig Clay’s sweetly struck volley stung the gloves of Liam Roberts, after the midfielder has controlled the ball with his chest and took aim from 25 yards.
Dan Happe and Josh Wright both had half chances towards the end of the half but couldn’t capitalise before Josh Gordon hit Walsall in front.
The forward latched onto a long ball, took the ball around the onrushing Sargeant and placed home from a tight angle, giving his team the lead at the break.
Ross Embleton made a double change at the break introducing James Brophy and Matt Harrold in place of Josh Wright and Lee Angol.
Into the second half; McDonald looked to test Sargeant after cutting inside onto his right foot, but his strike from the edge of the area was right down Sargeant’s throat.
The introduction of Harrold was causing the Saddlers all kinds of problems, with Cameron Pring soon booked for a cynical foul on the physical forward.
Orient enjoyed the majority of possession in the first quarter of the half but failed to test the goalkeeper.
Walsall countered and may have doubled their lead on the hour through goal scorer Gordon, but the number ten failed to nod the ball on target from nine yards.
Brophy warmed into the second half and looked a threat down the left flank, causing his marker Cameron Norman plenty of problems.
With little over 20 minutes of the game to be played, Referee Darren Handley showed Pring a second yellow for a clumsy tackle on George Marsh on the halfway line. The O’s man played a forward pass and was caught by the Walsall defender, who really didn’t need to make the challenge.
The man advantage was clear to see with the O’s setting up camp in the Walsall final third. Maguire-Drew’s trickery earned him some space on the right-hand side of the area, but the Orient man couldn’t hit the target with a curling left footed drive.
Orient survived a scare when Marvin Ekpiteta made a crucial block to take the fizz out of Gordon’s shot after the striker had been found in acres of space by the head of Liam Kinsella.
O’s pressure continued right until the end, as Sotiriou headed over Myles Judd’s inviting cross.
Louis Dennis was brought on with seven minutes left to play as Ross Embleton played his final card in a bid to snatch something from the game.
The fourth official signalled there would be four minutes of stoppage time to play but the O’s couldn’t produce anything of substance as the home team did what they had to, to hold on to the win.
A frustrating way to start the year.
ORIENT: Sargeant, Judd, Turley, Ekpiteta, Happe, Wright (Brophy 46”), Clay, Marsh, Maguire-Drew, Angol (Harrold 46”), Sotiriou
SUBS: Janata, Coulson, Dayton, Dennis, Kyprianou
BOOKED: Judd 22”
WALSALL: Roberts, Pring, Sadler, Scarr, Kinsella, Lavery, Gordon, Holden, Guthrie (Bates 37”), Facey (Norman 18”), McDonald (Cockerill-Mollett 70”)
SUBS: Rose, Gaffney, Perry, Jules
BOOKED: Pring 56” Gordon 62” Kinsella 73” Roberts 90”
OFF: Pring 66”
GOALS: Gordon 43”
REF: Darren Handley ATT: 4,263 – 425 away