Their win at Wolves may have snatched the headlines but there is no doubt this was the finest performance to date from Walsall.
Down a man with just 17 minutes on the clock after skipper Andy Butler was sent off, away to the country’s most in-form team, there seemed only one possible outcome.
But by the end of the game, there was a sense the visitors might even have snatched the win after a quite frankly immense effort at Brisbane Road.
Craig Westcarr’s close-range header 20 minutes from time, which cancelled out David Mooney’s first-half opener, saw the Saddlers stop the Orient Express dead in its tracks.
There were so many talking points, it’s difficult to know where to begin.
Perhaps best to put it into context first. Orient had scored 23 goals in eight games before Saturday and most of those came when the opposition had 11 men. Smith’s men not only restricted them to one in almost 80 minutes of playing with 10 but also kept them honest at the other end.
And it was the manner in which the Saddlers gained their point which was most satisfying.
Orient boss Russell Slade may have described Richard O’Donnell as the best player on the park, and it’s true the visiting keeper did make several crucial stops in the second half, most notably when he tipped Mathieu Baudry’s close-range header onto the bar in the closing stages.
But it was never exactly the Alamo either. Smith’s men avoided the trap of sitting back after going a man down and their passing style threatened to open the hosts up a number of times before Westcarr levelled.
At times, particularly before Mooney had opened the scoring, you forgot the visitors were short of a player, such was the even nature of the contest.
That they were a man down was courtesy of a 17th-minute challenge by Butler on Romain Vincelot, which referee Graham Scott deemed worthy of a red card.
But when the hosts did apply the pressure, they often found themselves repelled by a defence led by the excellent Paul Downing, who quickly assumed the role of leader in the absence of the skipper.
Alongside him in the middle of defence, James Chambers was simply magnificent. The veteran defender has arguably been the Saddlers’ best player so far this season, certainly their most consistent, and moved into the central role with typical calm.
The important thing now is for the Saddlers to push on, starting with the home game against Bradford City next week. Over the past three games they have proved they can compete with and beat the division’s most-fancied sides.
Quite what would have happened had the numbers remained level for most of this game – and they were, briefly, when Vincelot was dismissed in the final minute of stoppage time for a second booking – we’ll never know.
But there is no doubt the Saddlers made the stronger start before Butler’s dismissal, and the skipper came close to opening the scoring with a near-post header which sailed just wide.
Even a man down, the visitors might have taken the lead had Hewitt controlled a James Chambers punt which would have set him clean through on goal.
Orient were visibly frustrated at their inability to gain control of proceedings, but seven minutes from half-time they were handed the lead on a plate. O’Donnell failed to cleanly collect a cross under pressure from Kevin Lisbie and could only push the ball out to Mooney, who drilled his shot low and hard.
The Saddlers’ keeper began his redemption by saving at the feet of Lisbie soon after and then made an even better stop to deny Cox early in the second half.
With 20 minutes to go, Orient were stunned as Hewitt leapt high at the far post to head an Andy Taylor centre back across goal and Westcarr nodded home from close range.
O’Donnell prevented Lisbie restoring the lead almost immediately with another eye-catching save and denied Baudry late on.