HARTLEPOOL United have been beaten 2-1 by Wimbledon after two quickfire second-half goals turned the Sky Bet League Two game on its head.
Luke James 12th goal of the season in the 43rd minute had given Colin Cooper’s Pools side a deserved 1-0 advantage at the break after they had dominated the possession and chances.
But it all went wrong after the break when goals in the 74th and 76th minute from Will Antwi and Danny Hylton sent Wimbledon on the way to all three points.
It was a desperately disappointing result for Pools who had been the better team for well over an hour but their inability to score a second goal proved their downfall.
Cooper named an unchanged starting eleven with on-loan Middlesbrough midfielder Luke Williams again starting at the front of a midfield diamond formation, behind the front two of Marlon Harewood and James.
It was the same team that started the 2-0 win over York City at Victoria Park at the weekend, which meant Jack Barmby, who came off the bench to score against the Minstermen again started on the bench.
Former Pools striker Charlie Wyke, who spent a spell on loan at The Vic last season from Middlesbrough, started the match on the bench for Wimbledon at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
Pools started the match in 14th position, with their opponents in 11th spot in Sky Bet League Two.
Barmby’s dad Nick was in the executive box, along with chairman Ken Hodcroft and Hartlepool-born Soccer Saturday presenter Jeff Stelling.
The game started with a high tempo, with the away side having the better chances of the opening few minutes.
Within the first five minutes, Brad Walker had twice tested Ross Worner.
The first, a side-footed effort from the edge of the area was well held but 17-year-old’s second effort from 30-yards was acrobatically tipped over the bar by the home keeper to keep the scores level.
Harry Pell looked dangerous for the Dons and twice tested Scott Flinders from distance, but the Pools stopper was equal to both efforts - although he almost fumbled the second shot in the 15th minute but managed to recover.
It was an entertaining match between the two sides and while Pools had the best of the opening chances, the Dons fought back and looked dangerous on the break.
Christian Burgess, who had misplaced a few passes earlier in the match, should have hit the target at least in the 25th minute but was unable to connect with a deep Simon Walton free-kick.
Neil Ardley’s Dons had a glorious chance to take the lead but Kevin Sainte-Lusce slipped on the heavy turf and totally skewed his shot which was eventually blocked by Andy Monkhouse which gaves Pools the chance to break.
Williams and James linked up well and the ball eventually broke to Monkhouse on the edge of the penalty area but he ws unable to take advantage.
The lively Williams also found himself in space on the 18-yard line but his shot was comfortably wide, while Sainte-Lusce had another chance but it was well blocked by Walton and Monkhouse in the 29th minute.
A dipping free-kick from Walker sailed over the bar in the 37th minute after good work from Neil Austin drew a foul 20-yards out.
The shots continued to reign in on the the Wimbledon goal, with Monkhouse again going close from distance but the ball flew wide of Worner’s left-hand post.
Pools had the clearer goalscoring opportunities and they finally took the lead in the 43rd minute, thanks to tireless James’ second goal in a week following his effort against York City on Saturday.
Williams’ deep cross found Monkhouse who nodded it back across the goal and brave James managed to head the ball home from six-yards to give Pools the lead.
It was nothing less than Pools deserved.
HALF TIME: Wimbledon 0 Pools 1
Dons boss Ardley moved to shake-up his team at the break, with Charlie Sheringham and Jack Midson being hooked with Danny Hylton and Charlie Wyke coming on.
And it was the former Pools loanee player that almost made an instant impact - shooting low across Flinders from the right-hand side of the box within seconds of the re-start but the Pools stopper dived and pushed it to safety.
Harewood then a great chance to extend the lead after breaking through minutes later but his powerful drive was over the bar from 20-yards out after doing well to hold off two defenders.
Monkhouse had another effort from distance but it was saved again by Worner as Pools looked to double their advantage.
The home side had come out showing far more purpose and intent after the break and Flinders was twice called into action, the second save from Sammy Moore saw the Pools keeper diving at full stretch to his left in the 63rd minute to palm it away for a corner.
Wimbledon looked far more dangerous in the second-half and scored twice within the space of two minutes to turn the game around.
In the 74th minute, Will Antwi equalised for the home side after taking advantage of everybody - including Flinders - missing a long range Moore free-kick to head it home from close range.
Then two minutes later, sub Hylton made it two after getting the best of Jack Baldwin on the edge of the penalty area to turn, and shoot low past Flinders into the left-hand corner of the net.
It got worse for Pools in the 88th minute when Jack Baldwin was booked for a late challenge near the half-way line, his 10th of the season which means he will now miss the next two matches, starting with Scunthorpe United at the Vic on Saturday.
James had a late penalty shout waved away in added-on time as Wimbledon took all three points.
The Pools players trudged off the field at the end scarcely able to believe how they came away from this game with no points.
FULL TIME: Wimbledon 2 Pools 1
Hartlepool United (4-4-2): Flinders; Austin; Holden; Baldwin; Burgess; Walker; Walton; Monkhouse; Williams; Harewood (Barmby, 74); James.
Subs Not Used: Rafferty; Collins; Sweeney; Franks; Compton; Rodney.
GOAL: James (43)
Booked: Walton, Austin, Baldwin.
Wimbledon (3-5-2): Worner; Fuller (Arthur, 68); Fenlon; Morris; Jones; Antwi; Moore; Pell; Sheringham (Hylton, 45); Midson (Wyke, 45); Sainte-Lusce.
Subs Not Used: Bennett; Brown; Moore; Francomb.
Booked: Pell, Arthur.
GOALS: Antwi (74) Hylton (76)
Referee: Mark Haywood.
The Cherry Red Records Stadium, Wimbledon.
Attendance: 3,730 (Pools 239)