Jacques Maghoma fired home Burton Albion's 200th Football League goal as the Brewers snatched all three points from a dismal performance in Essex against a gritty Southend side who played for eighty minutes with only ten men after midfielder John Spicer saw red for a challenge on former Shrimpers striker Matt Paterson.
The game had little in the way of invention and creativity and probably deserved to finish as a goalless stalemate until Maghoma lashed in a free kick in the first minute of stoppage time.
Gary Rowett made just the one change for the trip to Essex with Billy Kee replacing the injured Calvin Zola in attack as the Brewers leading scorer missed out through injury. That change meant a return to the substitutes bench for Justin Richards who missed out on the matchday eighteen on Saturday.
The game had made a brisk and lively start without any clear chances but it came to life when Southend were reduced to ten men in only the eleventh minute. Diving in for a challenge on former Shrimpers striker Matt Paterson, John Spicer went over the top of the ball and was immediately shown a straight red card by referee Keith Stroud.
The referee did not last much longer succumbing to an injury and having to be replaced in the 18th minute.
The Shrimpers opted to play with just Watford loanee Britt Assombalonga in attack as forward Freddy Eastwood dropped back into midfield to make up the numbers.
Southend created their first real chance on 28 minutes when the pacy Assombalonga picked up a low cross from Kevan Hurst and fired wide with the help of a deflection off Zander Diamond.
Eastwood did venture forward not long after the half hour mark but after Albion failed to clear on the edge of their own area the former Coventry man sent a deflected shot spinning into the waiting arms of Tomlinson.
Albion were also grateful for a defensive deflection on forty minutes as the ball came to Hurst twenty five yards from goal but his effect went wide of the target off Damien McCrory.
With the hosts sniffing a goal before half time it was former Derby winger David Martin who chanced his arm next with a right foot shot that flew just over the crossbar.
Half time: Southend United 0-0 Burton Albion
Assombalonga had an early chance to break the monotony and the deadlock straight after half time but his flicked header from Sean Clohessy's cross went uncomfortably close to the post as it went wide.
Eastwood then had a free header at the near post but wastefully headed wide as if to sum up the poor quality of the football on show.
O'Connor picked up a yellow card on 57 minutes for a poorly timed challenge on Assombalonga and then it was all change in attack for the Brewers as Justin Richards and Adi Yussuf attempted to breathe llife into Albion's in place of Paterson and Kee.
Yussuf almost broke the deadlock on 65 minutes with a volley that flew just over after good work by Richards to bring the ball down inside the box.
It was the signal for Albion to look brighter in attack and Chris Barker had to make a vital headed clearance to stop Damien McCrory's dangerous left wing cross being converted inside the six yard box.
Yussuf then headed over from a Maghoma cross but Albion were still searching for their first effort on target in the entire match.
Albion introduced Cleveland Taylor for the closing moments in place of Rooney to see if Albion could snatch something in the dying moments.
It was Maghoma who came closest with a bursting run that ended with a shot from twenty five yards that Bentley did very well to push over the crossbar.
The goal when it came was late. Very late. The clock had ticked into stoppage time when Maghoma was brought down by Michael Timlin twenty five yards from goal and the midfielder thumped in a low shot through the defensive wall to snatch the points. A little harsh on Southend maybe but nobody in a Burton shirt was complaining after a less than inspiring performance but a mightily vital result.
SOUTHEND: Bentley, Clohessy, Cresswell, Eastwood, Timlin, Martin, Hurst, Prosser, Spicer, Assombalonga, Barker. Substitutes: Smith, Straker, Coughlan, Leonard, Benyon, Woodyard, Njie.
BREWERS: Tomlinson; O'Connor, Diamond, Kiernan, McCrory; Rooney, Bell, Weir, Maghoma; Paterson, Kee. Substitutes: Atkins, Webster, Stanton, Richards, Dyer, Taylor, Yussuf.
Referee: Mr. K.Stroud (Dorset)
GOALS: Albion - Maghoma 90+1
Attendance: 4,150 (35 away)