HARTLEPOOL United suffered their third straight league defeat after losing 2-0 to Dagenham & Redbridge at Victoria Park to continue their sorry run of form.
Howell struck in the fifth minute, his shot deflecting past Scott Flinders in goal.
Despite a period of Pools pressure, the Daggers doubled their lead in the 64th minute, captain Abu Ogogo taking advantage of a poor pass from Neil Austin to seal the win.
Want-a-way Pools striker Luke James started the match just 24-hours after handing in a transfer request.
The 19-year-old has been strongly linked with a big-money move to Peterborough United.
But he was in from the start at Victoria Park as Colin Cooper made two changes from the weekend 2-0 defeat to Bury.
Midfielders Michael Woods and Ryan Brobbel came into the starting line-up, with Marlon Harewood dropping down to the bench.
Tommy Millers misses out altogether through injury.
Pools started the match in a diamond formation, with Woods at the top and Stuart Parnaby playing holding midfield. Brad Walker and Ryan Brobbel giving the width on either flank.
Summer signing Jamie Cureton started for the Daggers, one of a dozen summer signings brought in.
James was awarded a warm round of applause as the teams were read out, for what could be his last home game in a blue and white shirt.
After a turbulent 24-hours - which had also seen loan target Christian Burgess sign for Peterborough United on a four-year deal from Middlesbrough - the last thing Pools needed was to concede early.
Sadly, after five minutes the Daggers had taken the lead.
Cureton played in Luke HOWELL on the right-hand side of the penalty area and his shot took a deflection off Darren Holden through Scott Flinders and into the back of the net.
It was a sloppy goal to concede and just about summed up Pools’ luck at the moment.
But it didn’t seem to affect confidence levels too much with the home side managing to put together a spell of pressure on the Daggers goal.
Brobbel, in particular, showing some nice touches on the ball but there was no efforts on the Daggers goal to speak of.
Ashley Hemmings curled a free-kick wide from the edge of the Pools area and then in the 35th minute Jonathan Franks had a glorious chance.
A Walker free-kick fell to the forward six-yards out on the left-hand side of the box but he screwed his shot wide.
Two minutes later and Cureton muscled captain Matthew Bates off the ball 20-yards out but his dipping effort was over Flinders’ crossbar.
Pools should have been level in the 28th minute - Franks again with the chance - this time eight-yards out after good work down the left flank from Brobbel.
But Franks shot high over the bar when it looked easier to hit the target.
Flinders then saved from Abu Ogogo but instead of pushing the ball away he almost palmed it straight to a Daggers player, luckily Holden was on the ball and raced clear.
Pools were keeping hold of possession better than previous games and chances were being created, James with a header over the bar to add to Franks’ missed opportunities earlier.
Duckworth, playing almost as a right winger, was then fouled on the edge of the area in the 40th minute. A dangerous position and Walker’s free-kick whistled wide after taking a deflection.
Half-Time: Pools 0 Dagenham & Redbridge 1
After a promising end to the first-half, it took the home side a good ten minutes to get back into their rhythm.
It came in the 57th minute thanks to some excellent work down the right from Luke James who showed great pace, strength, a good touch and a bit of trickery to win a corner.
It spoke volumes that was the early highlight of the second-half but Pools continued to probe and should have equalised in the 58th minute.
Franks taking advantage of a misplaced back pass to round keeper Liam O’Brien only to drag the pass into the box behind the onrushing James.
Moments later James did have a sight at goal, forcing O’Brien to tip his 25-yard strike over the bar.
The highly-rated striker was playing well and showing no signs the transfer speculation was affecting him.
Then, with Pools on top, the home side were dealt a hammer blow.
OGOGO scored for Dagenham to put them 2-0 up in the 64th minute, taking advantage of a misplaced pass from Austin on the half-way line to punish with deadly affect.
Dagenham were swift to take advantage of the mistake and broke upfield with pace before Ogogo finished well past Flinders.
Just like Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Bury, the second goal took the wind out of Pools’ sails.
Within the space of 11 minutes, Cooper had made all of his substitutions.
Walker, Woods and the injured Parnaby all taken off with Jack Compton, Lewis Hawkins and Harewood coming on.
Despite going 2-0 down, Pools continued to press in search of their first league goal of the campaign, Franks forcing O’Brien into a diving save and Compton screwing a shot wide.
Both Harewood and Compton looked like they had a point to prove when they entered the play.
Pools continued to press but just couldn’t find a way past the stubborn Daggers defence.
Austin, un-characteristicly, then had an overhead kick inside the six-yard box tipped onto the crossbar by O’Brien in the 88th minute.
James then forced O’Brien into another save as the clock ticked towards the full-time whistle and another defeat for Hartlepool United - their fourth consecutive loss in all competitions this year.
Full-Time: Pools 0 Dagenham & Redbridge 2
Pools (4-4-2): Flinders, Duckworth, Austin, Bates, Holden, Parnaby (Hawkins, 71), Walker (Compton, 60), Brobbel, Woods (Harewood, 66), Franks, James.
Subs Not Used: Dixon, Richards, Collins, Smith.
Dagenham & Redbridge (4-4-2): O’Brien, Connors, Doe, Saah, Cureton (Goldberg, 90), Ogogo, Chambers, Howell, Partridge, Hemmings (Porter, 81), Boucaud.
Subs Not Used: Cousins, Doidge, Labadie, Green, Gayle.
Booked: Chambers, Connors.
Goals: Howell (5) Ogogo (64)
Referee: Peter Bankes (Merseyside)
Attendance: 2,792 (70 Dagenham)