DEBUTANT Ryan Bird was the hero after his 73rd minute-strike sealed a crucial 1-0 win for Hartlepool United to claw the gap to safety back to six points.
The on-loan Cambridge United striker scored mid-way through the second half from close range to cap a much-needed win over Wimbledon at Victoria Park.
But the win was marred by a serious looking injury to Michael Woods, the midfielder stretchered from the field with his right leg in a brace.
Pools boss Ronnie Moore made just one change with Bird in from the start after signing on loan for a month.
The 27-year-old was partnered up front with 18-year-old Connor Smith, Marvin Morgan dropping down to the bench.
It was a quiet start to the match, with referee Carl Boyeson taking an age over decisions and allowing Wimbledon to slow the pace.
It took until the 17th minute for the first chance, Scott Flinders doing well to spread himself and block Jake Reeves’ effort after Adebayo Akinfenwa had played a lovely ball across the box.
Two minutes later and Neal Ardley’s Dons had hit the crossbar, Adedeji Oshilaja connecting with a Reeves corner but his header cannoned back off the woodwork.
With 28 minutes on the clock, Smith’s persistence in front of goal almost paid off.
The teenager closed down Callum Kennedy forcing him into a mistake but his angled shot towards goal was cleared by David Winfield’s diving header.
The fourth official announced 12 minutes of added-on time to be played, due to the long delay with the Woods injury earlier
On-loan Scunthorpe United defender David Mirfin then produced a marvellous last-ditch block in the 36th minute.
A deep Kennedy cross cannoned off the crossbar and fell to Alfie Potter who hit the ball first time, Mirfin on hand to make the block before Craig Tanner shot wide from the follow-up.
That was the last real chance of the opening 45 minutes.
It was a poor first-half, with little flow or tempo to the game at Victoria Park, the visitors carving out the better chances but it remained goalless at the break.
Half-Time: Pools 0 Dons 0
The travelling Dons supporters thought their team had taken the lead five minutes into the re-start, Craig Tanner’s shot deflected just wide of Flinders’ right-hand post by the boot of Michael Duckworth.
There was then a lengthy stoppage in play following a bad injury to Michael Woods.
The Pools midfielder won a corner but the firm but fair challenge from winfield left Woods in pain on the turf near the Town End.
Play was stopped for more than seven minutes before he was stretchered off, his right-leg in a brace, with Nicky Featherstone coming on to replace him.
From the resulting corner kick, Mirfin volleyed just over the bar from 12-yards.
Smith had a penalty appeal turned down in the 70th minute in the same passage of play which saw Aaron Tshibola’s effort fly wide as Pools cranked up the pressure.
The breakthrough came in the 73rd minute, Smith played in Compton down the left and his perfect cross was turned in by BIRD from two-yards on his debut.
Compton almost extended the lead in the 79th minute, his close range volley saved by James Shea.
The fourth official announced 12 minutes of added-on time to be played, due to the long delay with the Woods injury earlier.
But Pools held firm for their seventh win of the season.
Full-Time: Pools 1 Dons 0
Pools (4-4-2): Flinders (C), Duckworth, Mirfin, Harrison, Austin, Franks (J. Jones, 77), Woods (Featherstone, 63), Tshibola, Compton, Smith, Bird.
Subs Not Used: Maxted, Walker, D Jones, Harewood, Morgan.
Goal: Bird (73)
Wimbledon (4-4-2): Shea, Fuller (C), Kennedy, Bulman, Winfield, Oshilaja, Potter (Azeez, 71), Reeves, Tanner (Connolly, 84), Rigg (Moore, 71) Akinfenwa.
Subs Not Used: McDonnell, Smith, Phillips, Beere.
Booked: Fuller (40), Potter (69), Winfield (90)
Referee: Carl Boyeson (East Yorkshire)
Attendance: 3,345 (203 Wimbledon)