But there was bitter disappointment as they surrendered a 2-0 first-half lead to be held to their sixth home draw in seven games.
Unbeaten since manager Russ Wilcox took charge at the end of November, they seemed well in control with two first-half goals from Matt Sparrow and Sam Winnall.
Midfield man Sparrow celebrated his first start for more than four months by opening the scoring after just three minutes when he lashed a left-foot shot high into the net from close range after the visitors had failed to clear a low right-wing cross from Paddy Madden.
Leading marksman Winnall made it 2-0 in the 37th minute, stretching out a leg to convert an inswinging free-kick from Gary McSheffrey for his 19th goal of the season.
Sent out early for the second half by manager Phil Brown, Southend's revival started in the 62nd minute with a wonder strike from centre-back John Egan who let fly with a 30-yard effort that dipped in over goalkeeper Sam Slocombe.
And seven minutes later Slocombe was beaten again as a right-wing cross from Shrimpers skipper John White sneaked in at the far post.
It re-kindled their play-off hopes after nine previous games without a win had seen them struggling to stay in the top seven.