ACCRINGTON Stanley were hoping for a hat-trick of victories to keep them at the top of the league - instead they got three of a different kind.
The third Conference game in Stanley's season seems to be jinxed.
In their first campaign, they lost to Shrewsbury after winning and losing their previous two games.
Last season, Stanley won their first two and then suffered a 5-0 thumping by Stevenage.
And there was more of the same this season as, after two 1-0 wins, Cambridge charged into a 3-0 half-time lead and even had time to miss a penalty before they celebrated victory.
Manager John Coleman admitted a "calamitous" 20 minutes cost the Reds any hope of three points as, after a lively opening by Stanley, Cambridge then ran the show.
"For the first 10 minutes, if someone had said they would go on and win 3-1 and miss a pen, I wouldn't have believed them," said the boss.
"We showed in the first 10 minutes how to go and play away from home.
"But then we were made to pay for a calamitous 20 minutes.
"The keeper has had a howler for the first - it was a silly goal - and then we have lost our shape and discipline and got punished.
"We got a bit of pride back in the second half and have come back and if we had scored a bit earlier it might have been different.
"But we haven't been right from the start of the season and there is no disguising that."
Coleman changed his side around, reverting to 4-5-1 as they came up against what have been called the "youngsters" of Cambridge as they have had to wheel and deal in the transfer market after going - and then coming out - of administration.
And it seemed to pay off in the early stages but Ian Craney was unlucky to blast a goalbound effort from eight yards out against Paul Mullin in a goalmouth scramble as Stanley forced the pace.
But United, boosted by a win over pre-season title favourites Hereford midweek, soon began to test the Stanley defence including Betrand Bossu, the French keeper who Stanley signed on a month's loan from Darlington the day before.
And it couldn't have been a worse start to his Reds career as a seemingly harmless Mark Angel 25 yard effort was somehow pushed by the experienced diving keeper into his own net. It seemed to happen in slow motion with everyone staring in disbelief, as they ball trickled over the goalline.
"It was a howler. It is not ideal the keeper meeting the team for the first time the night before the game but he will be disappointed with that," said Coleman.
The game suddenly swung Cambridge's way and number two looked destined to swiftly follow one minute later when Robbie Williams was judged to have tugged at David Bridges shirt. The ref had no hesitation and Bridges stepped up only to rifle the penalty against the post.
It should have been the let off to spur Stanley on but instead the former League side made sure it was 2-0 on 34 minutes when a John Turner mis-kick landed at the feet of Angel at the far post and he unselfishly passed to Darren Quinton who will never have had an easier goal as he tapped it home from six yards out.
Stanley still had half chances with David Brown firing wide and Craney high and over but the game then eruped.
United's tall dangerous striker Fola Onibuje made a fierce tackle on Brown on the wing. The 26-year-old screamed as soon as contact was made and Reds defender Michael Welch ran straight over to Onibuje to confront him.
A melee followed with both being shown a yellow card - although both seemed lucky to stay on the pitch.
"I was disappointed with the challenge by big lad and I don't know why he wasn't red carded as there is no place for that challenge in football. It could have broke David Brown's leg," said gutted Coleman.
Tempers continued to be at boiling point with a late Robbie Williams challenge on Stephen Smith resulting in a yellow card for the defender - and a free kick just before the interval.
In it came, Onibuje headed it down and Bridges was there to make up for his earlier penalty miss by volleying the ball home, squeezing it in past the diving Bossu.
The Stanley players will have been in no doubt what was demanded of them after the half-time team talk with Andy Mangan and Matt O'Neill entering the fray - as Stanley, with Brown, Mullin and Mangan, now had three strikers on the pitch.
And it did improve although United did seem to take their foot off the gas.
Mangan and O'Neill added more bite but Stanley were still restricted to long range efforts until the last 12 minutes.
Then, a Mullin flick on sent Brown through unmarked and everyone expected to see the net bulging. Instead his shot screwed across the face of goal and wide.
However, Mangan made no mistake with the next effort after Anthony Barry had set him up. Although the keeper got a hand to his angled shot, it landed in the back of the net to give the 136 vocal Stanley fans at least something to cheer about.
It could have turned to jeers as Basso again was tested by sub Matthew Nolan but, after trying to round the keeper, Basso recovered to restore some pride.
The Reds looked gutted as they left the pitch but the Stanley fans who had made the trip kept singing and dancing with one press man quipping: "Can we put in a transfer for six of your fans?"