HARTLEPOOL United are now nine points adrift of League Two safety following a 1-0 defeat at Portsmouth who hadn’t won in nine previous encounters.
Pools were second best all afternoon against Andy Awford’s south coast outfit, failing to record a single shot on target and can have no complaints with the result.
Matt Tubbs’ 60th minute header was the game’s only goal and it is credit to the Pools backline who defended admirably that the against tally was just one.
With Ronnie Moore having set up to avoid defeat, Pools didn’t mount any pressurised attacks and failed to get beyond the hosts’ trio of centre-backs.
Moore handed debuts to loanees David Mirfin and Marvin Morgan after they sealed a switch to The Vic from Scunthorpe United and Plymouth respectively on Monday.
Striker Morgan replaced Rakish Bingham who was recalled by Mansfield Town while Mirfin formed a defensive trio with Dan Jones and Scott Harrison in a 3-5-2 formation.
Pools were under the cosh straight away, Joe Devera almost opening the scoring inside the first minute, flicking wide after being unmarked in the box following a free-kick.
Matthew Bates went down injured in the fifth minute as Pompey sprung a fruitless attack. Bates was seen slapping his hand on the turf in pain and seven minutes later he was replaced by Nicky Featherstone.
Jed Wallace twice broke down the right in a matter of minutes, his first cross evading Danny Hollands and his second targeted for Ryan Taylor who was ousted by an alert Harrison who nipped in ahead of the attacker to clear.
From a Pools attack, Pompey broke again. Their top-scorer Wallace rounded Jones on the right, broke into the box and dragged the ball across the six-yard line for the waiting Tubbs who was thwarted by Harrison.
Flinders pushed a dipping Wallace free-kick away to his left as the hosts continued their early barrage of attacks.
Dan Butler delivered a corner that Paul Robinson leaped highest from but his header had too much elevation on it.
Portsmouth’s domination briefly waned with stray passes littering their play but it was they who were still doing the attacking.
Jones blocked Taylor’s spin and shot as Pompey enjoyed a sustained period of possession on the half hour mark around the Pools box without avail.
There was another goalmouth melee for Pools to contain in the 37th minute when a John Passley right-wing centre was turned away from Tubbs by Mirfin.
A constant stream of crosses made their way into the Pools box but all were rerouted out, much to the frustration of a restless Fratton Park. Robinson was the next to be denied by Flinders, his header too tame for the stopper before half-time.
Danny Hollands was beaten to a cross by Mirfin seven minutes into the second-half and Wallace headed the rebound over the crossbar.
Pompey advanced again, Whatmough scuffing a shot into Harrison’s calf and Joe Devera planting a header from another corner to the left of the framework before Fenwick recorded Pools’ first shot of the afternoon, ballooning over a bouncing ball from 20-yards.
And on the hour mark Pompey finally get their reward. Taylor dinked a cross from the left that was met by Tubbs who flicked the ball beyond his marker Jones and Flinders and into the top corner from close range.
A one-two on 69 minutes with sub Marlon Harewood – who replaced Morgan a minute before the opener - saw Michael Duckworth steer a left-footed shot from the edge of the box wide of Paul Jones’ right post.
Going behind saw Pools keen to go forward more but Tshibola’s free-kicks were too often lacking height and accuracy. From a lofted Woods pass Mirfin headed wide.
Matt Tubbs was squeezed by Duckworth to prevent him a shot on goal in the 82nd minute before the full-back again linked up with Harewood but this time Duckworth’s shot was blocked.
Soon after Hollands had a rasping shot narrowly raise over Flinders’ crossbar as the home side wound the clock down.
Wins apiece for Mansfield Town and Dagenham and Redbridge restores the nine-point gap to 22nd place.
Portsmouth (3-5-2): Jones, Whatmough, Devera, Wallace, Taylor, Robinson (C), Passley, Dunne, Hollands, Butler, Tubbs (Chaplin, 90).
Subs Not Used: Poke, Webster, Barcham, Ertl, Westcarr, Atangana.
Booked: Tubbs (90)
Goalscorer: Tubbs (60)
Pools (3-5-2): Flinders (C), Duckworth, Harrison, Mirfin, Jones, Austin, Bates (Featherstone, 13), Tshibola (Franks, 82), Woods, Fenwick, Morgan (Harewood, 59).
Subs Not Used: Maxted, Richards, Holden, Walker.
Booked: Tshibola (22), Harrison (62), Featherstone (74)
Referee: Graham Horwood (Bedfordshire)
Attendance: 14,397 (183 Pools)