Carlisle United 1 Colchester United 0: The 71st minute; that’s when they sensed it. Carlisle had just broken up a Colchester attack, and then saw one of their own foiled. A taut, tricky game remained tensely in the balance.

And at that seemingly random second-half juncture, Brunton Park responded. There is always something remarkable about the way a few thousand people meet the same moment together.

Yet with 20 minutes to go here, they all just…knew. They knew it was going to be a thorny end to a challenging afternoon. They knew Carlisle were going to have to be urged over the line. They knew that failure to see victory home, in those late circumstances, would have been another attack on their self-belief.

So they roared. It lasted only a few seconds, but it was enough. This was fans as participants, not merely spectators, and if Carlisle’s players served the ultimate purpose, that little eruption of encouragement let Paul Simpson’s team know they weren’t doing the job alone.

United's manager knew the part the faithful had played. “Things were nervy, because we were thinking about getting going again – so I’ve got to give the supporters credit, particularly in the second half,” Simpson said.

News and Star: The recalled Jack Ellis contributed to a solid defensive effortThe recalled Jack Ellis contributed to a solid defensive effort (Image: Barbara Abbott)

“They made a hell of a lot of noise as they got behind us, and we thank them for that. Between us, we’ve got ourselves over the line.”

Between us. Ourselves. Not we and you. This was indeed a day that called for unity, and the result was that Carlisle put a solid, hard-working, confidence-restoring win between themselves and last Tuesday’s Mansfield debacle.

They also leapt three points clear in third place, and stretched the gap to eighth back to seven points. League Two will ensure the same team effort will be required many times on the home straight, so how helpful it must be to know Carlisle can call on it.

And how encouraging to Simpson it must be to know his team can respond to a severe setback so well, so swiftly - with their loyal followers ready to join in.

This result should not be underestimated. Colchester were one of League Two’s form teams and on the brink of a club record away run. Their examination of United did come, but not in a way that pained them.

Carlisle, given a psychological leg-up by Alfie McCalmont’s fourth-minute goal, laid on plenty of low-risk defending and oodles of hard effort to deny Matt Bloomfield’s men another fun day out. Another cameo summed up the display: Joe Garner, 35 in a couple of months, leaving his attacking station to sprint back and kill an emerging Colchester attack with a terrific sliding challenge on Arthur Read.

News and Star: Owen Moxon on the attack for UnitedOwen Moxon on the attack for United (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Garner’s value and wiles were clear in moments like that. As, for the first time in a blue shirt, were McCalmont’s. There was a freshness in the way the Leeds loanee, on his first start, seized on Connor Wood’s weak header and clipped it past Kieran O’Hara to give United the lead.

McCalmont’s place in the side was part of a four-man “refreshing” by Simpson after Tuesday’s hiding. Already it had paid off. Jack Ellis, recalled after injury, came back in well, while Garner and Omari Patrick, who started with some pleasing zip, helped Carlisle set a bright early tone.

Their body language was good, their attitude aggressive. They pressed hungrily against Bloomfield’s big defence, and if Garner got next to nothing from referee Neil Hair, at least Carlisle’s intent was clear.

Jon Mellish, too, was giving one of those multi-platform displays that remind you why he’s a player few sides at this level can emulate. One swivel of the hips in the 11th minute delighted the crowd; the fact he then lost the ball did not greatly dilute Carlisle’s momentum.

News and Star: Visiting keeper Kieran O'Hara denies UnitedVisiting keeper Kieran O'Hara denies United (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Colchester grew from the midpoint of the half, spreading and stretching play sideways, but never made any serious punctures. Noah Chilvers’ attempted long-range lob was the height of ambition, and United dug in to defend a few corners, but should have scored again when Mellish, having started a galloping attack with a good challenge, failed to finish it when Garner and Patrick worked it back his way.

That kept the game on the level, denied Carlisle real comfort. They finished the half well, McCalmont and Owen Moxon seeing shots blocked, yet the sense with Colchester was that they were keeping some of their wilier players in reserve.

That was indeed the case given that, in the 54th minute, Bloomfield sent for some of them. Matt Jay, one of three arrivals, gave them a degree of intellect and menace they had so far lacked. His work behind the attacking line required Carlisle to engage defensively in a new and even better way.

News and Star: JK Gordon was one of the subs who helped United defend from the front late onJK Gordon was one of the subs who helped United defend from the front late on (Image: Barbara Abbott)

All in all, they did. Jay cleared the bar after one elusive move, there was a bit of end-to-end, then Simpson made his first alterations – both strikers swapped. The meaty figure of John Akinde was Colchester’s last weapon, yet Carlisle’s manager played his own changes well, JK Gordon, Jordan Gibson and Corey Whelan doing excellent work to push the visitors back in the closing stages.

There was one scare when Jay crossed and Kwesi Appiah slid it into the side-netting, and then – after Kristian Dennis had spun and shot over for Carlisle from a great position – others when Jay was denied and the otherwise reassuring Tomas Holy pushed an injury-time cross back through the box.

Colchester, though, met a dark blue wall there, as they had on previous occasions when Morgan Feeney, Paul Huntington and co had been marching them down alleys from which it proved impossible to return.

It was not silky stuff, but did not need to be. In terms of personality, and understanding the requirements, it was grittily outstanding – backed up by those on the terraces and seats. On United and their followers march, together.