A STUNNING second-half strike from Brad Walker ensured Hartlepool United came away from Southend United with a hard-fought point.
A soft Barry Corr goal in the 43rd minute had given the home side the lead at half-time after an entertaining opening 45 minutes.
But Pools hit back in style through 17-year-old Walker.
He chested the ball down in the 59th minute before smashing a volley into the top corner of the net.
Walker made it look easy and the 1-1 draw keeps Colin Cooper’s side in touch with the play-offs, dropping to ninth but still six points off the top seven.
It was a bright and open match from the off between the two play-off chasing teams with Brown’s men having the first attempt.
In the 12th minute, a shot deflected off Kevan Hurst onto the back of Collins and into the grateful hands of Scott Flinders.
Then, 60 seconds later, Brad Walker burst through but his fierce shot from all of n20-yards was well-held by Daniel Bentley in the Southend goal.
Minutes later Pools had a strong penalty shout turned down, Adam Thompson brought down James inside the penalty area but referee Keith Hill waved the strong shouts away much to the disgust of the travelling Pools fans.
Southend struck two minutes before half-time, Barry Corr getting the final touch to a Hurst pull back and the ball trickled over the line, with Andy Monkhouse unable to clear.
The Shrimpers almost doubled their lead, in the 57th minute. The ball broke to Straker on the edge of the area, and he burst past Richards at right-back before firing a fierce shot towards goal.
Minutes later Walker equalised for Pools with an absolute beauty.
The 17-year-old chested the ball down 20-yards from goal after a half-clearance before volleying it emphatically with his right boot into the top-left hand corner in the 59th minute.
It was unstoppable and the teen wheeled away in celebration.
James could have put Pools in the lead in the 73rd minute after being put through inside the area. His right-footed shot well saved by Bentley and away for a corner.
Richards narrowly avoided giving away a penalty on Hurst in the 90th minute, the Southend midfielder taking an age to go down, but referee Hill waved it away.
Southend: Bentley, White, Thompson, Phillips, Coker, Atkinson, Leonard, Timlin, Hurst, Corr, Straker. Subs Not Used: Paul Smith, Laird, Eastwood, Payne, Williams, Gomis, Barnard.
Goals: Corr 43.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Richards, Collins, Burgess, Holden, Walker, Walton, Monkhouse, Williams, Harewood, James. Subs Not Used: Franks, Poole, Barmby, Rafferty, Compton, Sweeney, Duckworth. Goals: Walker 59.
Att: 4,361 Ref: Keith Hill (Hertfordshire).