Hartlepool United boss Dave Jones rued his side’s luck in front of goal as they were condemned to a fourth successive away League Two defeat last night.
Luton Town ran out 3-0 winners to stay in fourth place, three points behind Carlisle.
Defeat for Pools, though, leaves them just two points above the drop zone as all but one of the sides below them picked up at least a point.
“After the first 15 minutes, I could not fault the kids,” said Jones, who handed a debut to on-loan Middlesbrough goalkeeper Joe Fryer.
“They re-grouped after that start, we just needed that bit of luck in front of goal.
“Luton got it near the end. Scott (Harrison) should have cleared it into row Z and the lad ended up scoring from a ricochet. The lads worked hard and dug deep. To play like we did against a team in fourth, I couldn’t fault them.
“The lads will learn from this and get better and better.
“We just lacked that bit of luck in front of goal.”
Jones made four changes to the team beaten 4-0 at Mansfield at the weekend, with Fryer joined by Michael Woods, Rhys Oates and Kenton Richardson.
One of of the Chester-le-Street-born 21-year-old ’s first tasks was to pick the ball out of the back of his net.
Gambin played the ball over the top into the away box, where Hylton’s touch took him away from his marker and he slid the ball past Fryer from inside the six-yard box.
It soon got worse for Pools. Another simple ball forward over the top was not dealt with, allowing Gambin to take possession. The midfielder strode forward and shot home from the edge of the box with his left foot.
It should have been 3-0 in the 54th minute when Hylton showed great footwork to beat Brad Walker and Harrison, but, after doing all the hard work, he shot over with a full target to aim at.
Jones sent on Padraig Amond on the hour mark and his introduction signalled a short but sustained spell of Pools pressure.
Oates did well to find Woods, who fired just over from the edge of the area, then Nathan Thomas and sub Lewis Alessandra combining neatly in a bid to play in Amond, with Stephen O’Donnell forced into making a vital interception.
For all the visitors’ promise, Luton sealed victory 10 minutes from time.
Harrison lost possession near his own corner flag to Ollie Palmer who broke into the box, where Richardson’s attempted clearance hit Walker and landed at the feet of the sub, who could not miss from a yard.
Pools host leaders Plymouth on Saturday, with Argyle having been surprisingly beaten 3-2 by lowly Leyton Orient last night.
Luton: Macey, O’Donnell, Mullins, Sheehan, Senior, Rea, Ruddock, D’Ath (Smith 66), Gambin, Hylton (Palmer 73), Vassell (Marriott 73). Subs not used: Moore, Cuthbert, Gray, Justin. Booked: Rea. Goals: Hylton 5, Gambin 13, Palmer 81.
Hartlepool Utd: Fryer, Richardson, Harrison, Bates (Alessandra 14), Kavanagh, Featherstone, Woods, Walker, Nelson (Amond 61), Oates, Thomas. Subs: Bartlett, Hawkins, Rooney, Martin, Hawkes. Booked: Thomas, Richardson, Woods. Att: 6,965 (away 90). Ref: John Brooks (Leicester)