Kevan Hurst's strike earned Southend a point after ex-Shrimpers striker Matt Harrold had put Bristol Rovers ahead.
The only incident of note before the break came in injury time when Jack Payne tumbled in the box but the hosts' penalty appeals fell on deaf ears.
The Shrimpers started the second half brighter but it was Harrold who broke the deadlock on 51 minutes, rising high to head home a Michael Smith cross.
Hurst replied on 67 minutes, turning 20 yards out to fire home left footed.
VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Southend boss Phil Brown told BBC Essex:
"I think the referee has got to be looking at the assistant to give him a hand. It's either inside the box or outside the box for a foul, or it's a booking for a dive.
"We've got a young lad [Jack Payne], and he's not a cheat. So why would he fall to ground, unless there's contact?
"He wasn't looking for the penalty, it's not something that he's been taught.
"He's gone down in the penalty area, if he carries on he's down the by-line and he puts a cross in and we may score."
Southend United 17 Bentley 02 White 05 Phillips (Payne - 23' ) 06 Prosser Booked 23 Thompson 11 Straker 12 Atkinson 14 Hurst 18 Leonard 07 Eastwood (Woodrow - 54' ) 10 Corr Substitutes 01 Smith 27 Banton 08 Timlin 16 Clifford 21 Payne 09 Reid 33 Woodrow Bristol Rovers 01 Mildenhall Booked 02 Smith 06 Parks 14 Brown 29 McChrystal Booked 15 Norburn (Clucas - 71' ) 16 Bond 30 Lockyer 32 O'Toole Booked 09 Harrold Booked 26 Brunt (Harrison - 55' ) Substitutes 20 Gough 17 Harrison 25 Clucas 33 Santos 07 Clarkson 10 Richards 18 Harding