One-time Stanley favourite Piero Mingoia scored the winner in an incident packed game as Stanley missed two late penalties and Cambridge ended with nine men.
Mingoia, who left the Reds in the summer to move closer to home, volleyed home in the 81st minute to end a five game unbeaten run for Stanley.
But Stanley had two chances to save at least a point with first Chris Eagles seeing his penalty saved by Will Norris – an incident which saw Leon Legge sent off – and then ex-Red Brad Halliday handled on the line and Terry Gornell had his spot kick saved. Halliday also saw red.
Stanley had also hit the post through Rommy Boco with 12 minutes to go as the game finished in dramatic style.
Coleman made three changes from Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Mansfield. Midfielder Scott Brown returned to captain the side after suspension, Aaron Chapman started in goal and Boco got the nod ahead of Terry Gornell.
The first real chance fell to Mingoia on eight minutes who raced in for a cross but Chapman just got there first to push the ball away.
It was the former Accrington man who had a part in Cambridge’s opener though on 14 minutes. The winger’s 25 yard free kick was headed home by defender Legge at the far post – it was the third game running, Stanley have gone behind.
The Reds were enjoying plenty of possession around the visiting box without testing Norris while a quick break by United on the half hour almost led to a second but Adam McGurk blasted the ball over the bar in a good position.
On the stroke of half-time, Jordan Clark had Stanley’s first shot on target with a fierce drive which Norris pushed away at the near post.
Cambridge started the second half on the front foot with a Mingoia cross an early danger while Paddy Lacey had a go from distance but it was comfortable for Norris.
Roberts headed wide at the far post for the home side and then Stanley drew level on 51 minutes.
A McConville corner found the head of Omar Beckles and Norris did well to push out his effort and there was Kee to pounce from close range for his fifth goal of the campaign.
Both sides then looked for the winner and Stanley came closest 12 minutes from time when the ball fell to the inrushing Boco on the edge of the area and his fierce shot hit the foot of the post and spun out to safety.
And then Cambridge broke quickly down the left through sub Uche Ikpeazu and Mingoia was there in the centre of the six yard box to fire the ball into the top of the net.
Then followed the double penalty drama as Cambridge held on for the win.