U's left to rue missed opportunities.
The U’s could and should have been ahead after just five minutes. The in-form Massey skipped past two tackles and, in a great central position, hit a rising shot that crashed off the underside of the bar and away to safety.
That said, the U's remain two points from safety and it's another big game against Crawley on Sunday to conclude 2014.
But two goals for the Gills in the first half left the U's with just too much to do as the visitors took the points back to Kent.
With good chances at either end of the game and a strong second half performance, the U's did enough to get something out of the match.
The U's were left scratching their heads as to how they lost their Boxing Day game, after falling to a 2-1 defeat against Gillingham.
It was the right kind of start for the U’s, and Fox was the next to go close as, with the ball cleared to him on the edge of the box, he skidded an effort into the midriff of Nelson.
The Gills first chance came on 15 minutes, as McDonald got a sight of goal in the left channel and fired in an effort that forced Walker into a good low stop.
However, the U’s bright start was undone on 25 minutes when the ball came in from the right and it fell to Martin who lashed home a brilliant effort past the helpless Walker.
They then found themselves two down on 35 minutes. Again McDonald was the provider, laying the ball into the near post, where Dack was on hand to scoop the ball home past Walker.
The two goals were against the run of the first half an hour where the U’s had otherwise put in a fine display.
The U’s should have had one back five minutes before half time. Hewitt got away down the right and sent over a fine low cross that saw the defender slip. Massey seized on it, but found Nelson in the way to turn away his fierce shot.
Moncur was then well placed on the edge of the box after good work from Gordon, but he slashed his shot well wide of the target.
The U’s made a change at the start of the second half, as Szmodics replaced Eastmond in the heart of midfield.
And they got a goal back five minutes after the restart. Clohessy had had a cross blocked in the first instance, but he sent over a dangerous one that was turned into the net by the determined Szmodics.
The right back thought he’d set up another as Sears turned the ball home, but the linesman’s flag cut short the celebrations on the hour mark.
The play was all Colchester and Massey hit a shot that was swerving all over the place, which Nelson spilled. Sears thought he might get to it, but the keeper fended it away just in time.
Massey then went close again, this time picking up a ball on the left before drilling in an effort that fizzed past the post.
The U’s were well in charge of the game and looking to find that crucial equaliser. They made their final changes with just over ten minutes to go, with Healey coming on for Hewitt and Watt for man of the match Clohessy.
Nelson came to the visitors’ rescue on ninety minutes, as Watt drilled in a fine low cross that Sears looked like he was converting, but the keeper pulled off a fine reaction stop.
And yet there was one more chance for Col U.
The ball was thrown into the box and Szmodics’ header beat Nelson. It looked like it was on its way in, Healey made sure, only for Szmodics to be flagged offside.
The U's were left with their heads in their hands as they were left wondering how the game had slipped through their hands.