The midfielder struck from the spot with just four minutes remaining of Tuesday night's clash at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, after Kyle McFadzean had fouled Marcus Bean.
Defender McFadzean had given Crawley the lead after 71 minutes when he headed in from close range.
High-flying Town also rattled the woodwork three times.
Midfielder Mike Jones twice hit the post from long range and U's goalkeeper Mark Cousins tipped a curler from Nicky Adams onto the crossbar.
Colchester are still without a win this season but have drawn four matches.