Tom Craddock ended a year of injury frustration with the goals that sent Oxford to a 2-0 success against bogey side Southend.
The former Middlesbrough and Luton forward missed most of the 2011-2012 season with knee and hamstring injuries but he came on as a half-time substitute against ten-man Southend and broke the deadlock nine minutes later.
Alfie Potter's fine run down the right and cross from the by-line was turned home in style by Craddock at the near post.
Southend spent more than an hour with ten men after midfielder Michael Timlin was sent off on 27 minutes for a second bookable offence. Timlin tripped Lee Cox virtually under the nose of referee Oliver Langford, just five minutes after collecting a yellow card.
The Shrimpers' attacking moments were few and far between.
One of their most promising raids was foiled because John Spicer had drifted offside when Gavin Tomlin released his pass in a glorious position.
Potter went close to making it 2-0 when he dribbled past two players in the box but shot against the far post.
But it was Craddock again who showed how to finish, beating his marker just inside the area on 87 minutes and then driving an unstoppable shot past the over-worked Belford.