Hartlepool United were sunk by a late Craig Mackail-Smith winner at Luton Town.
Pools were looking good for a deserved point when the Hatters sub lifted his shot over Trevor Carson in the 86th minute.
Luton took the lead on the hour from Cameron McGeehans's penalty, but Adam Jackson headed Pools level within five minutes, only to suffer that late blow.
Luton had the first threat in the 12th minute following the opening corner, with Pools scrambling clear.
But Pools went agonisingly close to an 18th minute lead when Jake Gray put over an inviting low cross from the right which Paynter could not quite reach with the goal at his mercy.
The Hatters had a great opening just after the half-hour when Jack Marriott was played through only to lose the ball in the box.
Hignett's side began to get into the ascendancy and Lewis Hawkins had a shot blocked after a good move.
And Pools had the chance of the half when Paynter beat the offside trap with a great run to the by-line.
He teed up Thomas who did well to get to the ball but somehow missed from eight yards in front of goal.
Luton went close to a 48th-minute lead thanks to a super run by McGeehan, who did all the hard work, only to miss with his left-foot shot from 16 yards.
Pools hit back and had an opening of their own eight minutes later when defender Alan Sheehan blocked Gray's shot after a good Thomas run.
But Pools fell behind on the hour from the penalty spot.
Green's 21-yard free-kick hit the blue wall, with referee Andy Davies pointing to the spot, Featherstone looking the man penalised.
McGEEHAN sent Carson the wrong way, putting his penalty in the keeper's bottom right corner.
However, Pools were level inside five minutes.
Bates came forward and found Thomas on the left, the winger coming inside and forcing Tyler into a diving save.
And from the corner, Gray's flag-kick was met by JACKSON. Luton thought they had cleared his header but the linesman ruled it had crossed the line.
Pools almost had a sniff on 73 minutes when McGeehan lost the ball to let in Walker but Tyler saved.
Luton were making little headway, prompting them to bring on Craig Mackail-Smith.
And MACKAIL-SMITH made his mark four minutes from time when he lifted his shot over Carson from an angle.
LUTON TOWN 2
HARTLEPOOL UNITED 1
Luton: Tyler, O'Donnell, Cuthbert, Sheehan, Howells, Lee, Lawless (Hall 72), McGeehan, Green , Pigott, Marriott.
Subs: Justham, Smith, Hall, McCourt, Mpanzu, Okounghae, Mackail-Smith
Goal: McGeehan 60 (pen), Mackail-Smith 86
Booked: McGeehan 64
Carson, Magnay, Bates, Jackson, Carroll, Featherstone, Walker, Hawkins, Gray, Paynter, Thomas.
Bartlett, Richards, Harrison, Laurent, Oates, Fenwick, Bingham
Goal: Jackson 65
Booked: Thomas 45, Featherstone 89
Referee: Andy Davies
Att: 7,880 (away 193)