OXFORD United's promotion push hit a speed bump as a below par performance saw Leyton Orient claim all three points.

The visitors set their stall out to frustrate and waste time, before landing a knockout blow when Jobi McAnuff struck 16 minutes from time.

United could point to a strong penalty claim on Liam Sercombe early in the second half, but they spluttered for most of the afternoon and rarely tested Orient goalkeeper Alex Cisak.

The visitors had Mathieu Baudry sent off in stoppage time, but held on for victory.

The only comfort came in defeats for Plymouth Argyle and Portsmouth, but United's advantage over fourth place is now halved to three points after Bristol Rovers won.

Fit-again trio Benji Buchel, Joe Skarz and John Lundstram returned to the starting line-up, as Sam Slocombe, Jordan Evans and Josh Ruffels dropped to the bench.

United had the rare benefit of a whole week to prepare for the game, but struggled to find a rhythm in a disjointed first half.

Orient came with a plan to frustrate and took their time over every throw-in and free-kick from the very beginning.

They pulled all but top scorer Jay Simpson behind the ball when United were in possession and succeeded in making life difficult for the home side.

The only opening in the first 20 minutes fell to Simpson, who headed a Sean Clohessy cross wide.

United may have had a packed defence to deal with, but they were also some way below their sharpest.

The exception came midway through the half, when a superb free-kick from Chris Maguire was fired wide by Kemar Roofe.

Otherwise, United's rare attacking moments were undermined by their own indecision, as players wanted too much time on the ball in the box.

One of those was Danny Hylton, but the forward came to the rescue in the 40th minute.

Jonjoe Kenny was penalised for a handball near the corner flag and McAnuff's delivery went on to cause chaos.

Sean Brisley headed back across goal, where Nigel Atangana diverted the ball goalwards, but Hylton was in the right place to clear off the line.

United headed in at half-time with plenty of food for thought.

They needed a fast start to the second half - and they almost got one.

Within three minutes of the restart Liam Sercombe was brought down by a very untidy challenge in the box from Jerome Binnom-Williams.

Referee David Coote looked for help from his assistant, before giving a goal kick.

It looked harsh on United, but it at least fired them up to exert pressure on Orient.

Cisak was forced into his first save by a Roofe free-kick, which was well struck but at a comfortable height to parry.

United began to look more dangerous, but as the game opened up so did Orient.

Substitute Armand Gnanduillet came close to scoring against his former side just after coming on, but Buchel denied him with a strong arm as United waited for an offside flag which never came.

The tall striker was involved again 19 minutes from time when Orient broke quickly.

Gnanduillet got into the box and drew Buchel, before squaring across the six-yard box.

A goal looked inevitable, but Skarz and Mullins blocked on the line to keep out Clohessy.

Although it was inspired defending, the reprieve lasted only three minutes.

When Chey Dunkley's clearing header fell to Clohessy, he found McAnuff to coolly slot the ball into the net from 15 yards.

It was a bodyblow to United, who only mustered an assault for an equaliser in the closing stages.

Two good chances fell for Sercombe.

The first came when Cisak came out to block substitute Alex MacDonald. The midfielder picked up the loose ball and dribbled round the keeper, but his cross was cut out by Baudry.

The second chance was even better, only for Sercombe to drag his shot wide from ten yards after being put through by MacDonald.

Orient were reduced to ten men when Baudry received a straight red for crudely taking out Roofe out wide in stoppage time, but United had little time to take advantage.

Oxford Utd: Buchel, Kenny, Mullins, Dunkley, Skarz, Roofe, Sercombe, Lundstram, Maguire (O'Dowda 59), Hylton (Waring 63), Bowery (MacDonald 82).

Unused subs: Slocombe, Evans, Ashby, Ruffels.

Leyton Orient: Cisak, Brisley, Baudry, Hunt, Binnom-Williams, Clohessy, Atangana, Nolan, McAnuff, Jahraldo (Gnanduillet 62, Essam 90), Simpson (Palmer 84).

Unused subs: Gregory, Payne, Turgott, Pritchard.

Referee: David Coote (West Yorkshire).

Attendance: 7,102 (788 visitors).