A LATE goal from sub Florent Cuvelier snatched all three points for Burton Albion as they beat Hartlepool United 1-0 at Victoria Park.
It was a drab encounter with little in the game for either side until Cuvelier popped up in the final few minutes to nick all three points.
Defeat leaves Pools eight points from safety in Sky Bet League Two ahead of back-to-back away games at Morecambe and then Oxford United.
Pools were too weak, created little and with only 11 games left the situation looks dire.
Ronnie Moore made three changes with Michael Duckworth, Connor Smith and Jonathan Franks all dropped to the bench.
Marlon Harewood partnered Ryan Bird up front at Victoria Park, while, on-loan Middlesbrough winger Jordan Jones started on the wing.
In defence, Dan Jones came in at left back with Neil Austin pushed to the right full-back slot.
Pools looked to have got out of jail after three minutes, Dan Jones appeared to trip Lucas Akins inside the area but referee Darren Bond booked the Brewers winger for diving.
Burton looked dangerous on the break, Tom Naylor shooting from the edge of the area after Pools failed to clear properly, Scott Flinders getting enough behind it to keep the scores level.
Pools had their own penalty appeal turned down in the 16th minute, Aaron Tshibola’s shot was blocked by Damien McCrory’s arm at close range.
Bond again waved the appeals away.
With just over half an hour on the clock, on-loan Cambridge United striker Bird tried his luck 18-yards, his volley from the corner of the box was easily gathered by Jon McLaughlin in the Burton goal.
Harewood - who was getting some ribbing from the travelling supporters - had his own penalty decision turned down after grappling with John Mousinho, the Brewers captain appearing to pull Harewood down.
Further chances were few and far between as both sides battled the wind and the bumpy pitch at Victoria Park.
Jordan Jones looked the most likely to cause the away side problems, the pacy winger a thorn down the right flank.
It was a poor first-half, lacking in chances and quality but Pools just about edged it.
Half-Time: Pools 0 Burton 0
The second-half followed a similar pattern to the first, Pools battling hard and Burton failing to show their title-chasing credentials.
Moore made a double sub just past the hour mark, Connor Smith and Jonathan Franks coming on.
Compton and Harewood the men hooked.
Supporters had to wait until the 71st minute for the first attempt at goal from either side in the second-half.
Stuart Beavon firing a foot wide from the edge of the penalty area after Burton broke at pace following a Pools corner.
It was a drab second-half, even worse than the opening 45 minutes, with neither side seemingly capable of building a spell of pressure.
On-loan Plymouth Argyle striker Marvin Morgan came on for Bird, as Moore looked to inject some attacking threat into the game.
The Pools supporters - and bench - were urging the players on but the game was flat.
It sprung into life in the 88th minute but it was the visitors that grabbed the goal.
Sub Florent Cuvelier finishing low under the body of Flinders to snatch the victory.
Featherstone and Austin had both been caught flat-footed in the build-up, with Beavon able to play in Cuvelier to finish.
Full-Time: Pools 0 Burton 1
Pools (4-4-2): Flinders (C), Austin, Harrison, Mirfin, D Jones, J Jones, Tshibola, Featherstone, Compton (Franks, 62), Harewood (Smith, 62), Bird (Morgan, 80).
Subs Not Used: Maxted, Richards, Duckworth, Walker.
Booked: Tshibola (58)
Burton: McLaughlin, Edwards, Mousinho, Cansdell-Sherriff, McCrory; Akins, Weir, Naylor, Palmer (Cuvelier, 84 (Taft), Antoine-Curier (El Khayati, 75), Beavon.
Subs Not Used: Shearer, Phillips, Slade, Harness.
Booked: Akins (3)
Goal: Cuvelier (88)
Referee: Darren Bond (Lancashire)
Attendance: 3,289 (170 Burton)