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A quiet first half was to suggest little of what was to come in the second period, as a dramatic second forty-five minutes saw Charlton win 1-0 at the Valley.
The U's tried to find a path to goal in the second period, working against a backdrop of an ever changing scoreline at Huddersfield, their main opponents for a play-off spot.
The Terriers led 2-0, trailed 3-2 against ten men, before scoring twice in injury time to win the game.
It means that, despite the U's best efforts, they now sit three points behind the Yorkshire outfit going into the weekend games.
The U's made two changes to the side that had beaten Swindon at the weekend.
One was enforced with Anthony Wordsworth serving the first of a two game suspension, with John-Joe O'Toole coming in, whilst Steven Gillespie replacing Clive Platt up front with the big striker dropping to the bench.
In a bright start for the U's, Izzet miscued a shot before, in a second attempt, the U's had a goal disallowed for offside.
The ball was controlled by Lisbie in the heart of the area, and he forced a good save out of Randolph. The keeper couldn't hold the ball and, although Gillespie tucked home, he was flagged offside straightaway.
The U's had to face a threat from the dangerous Sam, who cut in from the right and fired in a left footed shot that was straight at Williams.
But it was the U's who were getting sights of goal and, after twelve minutes, a fine interchange between Gillespie and Lisbie on the edge of the box saw the latter cross for the former, only for Dailly to intervene in the nick of the time.
The home side were presented with a free kick in a dangerous position, twenty-five yards from goal just before the twenty minute mark.
Bailey and Borrowdale stepped up to the free kick but rather than testing Williams, Izzet stayed strong to block in the wall.
Things took a genuine turn for the worst midway through the half for the U's.
From another Charlton free kick, Sam twisted and turned past O'Toole on the edge of the box and sent over a dangerous cross into the box.
Forster had manoeuvred some space in the box and buried a superb diving header past the despairing dive of Williams into the roof of the net.
But the goal was just one of two blows for the U's. O'Toole appeared to get his studs caught in the ground and was left writhing in agony.
He was stretchered off and, as he disappeared into the tunnel, the news got even worse, as Huddersfield took the lead at the same time at the Galpharm Stadium.
The U's looked to bounce back, but had been knocked somewhat out of their stride by the Addicks goal.
And, in the middle third of the half, neither side retained possession to any great extent as the match became patchy.
The next real chance after the goal came some twenty minutes after the U's going behind. Prutton showed power to get the ball and then drove in a left footed shot that had Randolph scrambling as it fizzed wide of the keeper's left post.
Prutton hit a less dangerous effort not long afterwards, before hitting the best effort of the lot just before the break. He hit a great shot on the volley from distance and it went only inches wide.
The U's trailed at half time and faced a tough challenge as Charlton came out brightly at the start of the second half.
But it was the visitors who were to go close next as White picked up the ball twenty-five yards out and drove towards goal, before curling a ball narrowly over the crossbar with a fine shot.
At the other end, Charlton right back Richardson was part of an Addicks counter attack that saw him fire just over the woodwork.
The early stages of the half saw more chances of the first half put together and it was the U's leading the way.
The U's frustrations at not pulling level were growing and Okuonghae (foul) and Vincent (dissent) went into the book.
Shortly after heading the ball over the bar, Gillespie was substituted and replaced by Henderson, whilst Izzet went off with Fox coming on as Aidy Boothroyd looked for a way to get back into the game.
The exceptional Batth had a rare lapse of concentration midway through the half, but was relieved to see Sodje miss the ball as it skipped through for a goal kick.
The U's were winning a series of free kicks as they looked to build some pressure in the final quarter of the game.
From two of those Randolph collected safely, but there was hope for the U's as they heard that Walsall had pulled it back to two two, despite being down to ten men.
Sodje cut in from the right hand side to fire in an effort just beyond the crossbar, as both sides sought a goal that could prove crucial to their respective hopes.
White got in the book for dissent with eight minutes remaining, before the U's went close with Henderson crossing for Prutton, only for the Charlton defence to intervene.
Set pieces were falling in the U's favour and, as the final five got underway, Huddersfield fell behind for further drama in the race for the play-offs.
The U's pushed Danny Batth forward into the dying stages as they sought this equaliser, and there were to be five minutes of additional time for the U's to get something out of the match.
But they were to play that time out without Lisbie, who became the latest in a series of a players to get in the referee's book - with a red card.
He&nbsp;squared up to his man and was alleged to have headbutted his man, just as&nbsp;as Huddersfield drew level elsewhere.
The U's had a strong appeal for a penalty as a shot from the edge of the box by Fox was blocked by a flying Charlton body.
Shortly afterwards, White tackled his man heavily down the flank and the Charlton dugout reacted in fury as they thought another red card should follow.
The two managers went toe to toe in the dugouts in the fall out to that incident as the game finished in dramatic circumstances.
The final act of the game was for the ball to be thrust into the area. Randolph missed his punch and as the ball went across goal, Vincent was agonisingly close to connecting with his header.
The final whistle went straight away after that incident and the U's players finished heads in hands as the game slipped past them.
But they left the pitch to applause from the travelling support, who had their side give it a real good go in the second half.
However, those fans would have been gutted to hear a dramatic seventh goal in the game at Huddersfield. Drama abounds as things went against the U's.U's: Williams, White, Okuonghae, Batth, Tierney, Prutton, O'Toole (Platt), Izzet (Fox), Vincent, Gillespie (Henderson), Lisbie
Subs: Cousins, Heath, Ifil, Bender