HARTLEPOOL United threatened to spoil Chartlon Athletic’s promotion party only for the champions to respond with a quick-fire second-half treble, writes Craig Hope.
Neale Cooper’s men – backed by 170 travelling Smurfs – had been leading since Peter Hartley’s first-half opener when the Championship-bound Addicks finally awoke from their slumber 20 minutes from the end.
Danny Hollands headed a leveller and Danny Haynes nodded the hosts in front before Yann Kermorgant netted a spectacular third to cap the 10-minute blitz.
Gary Liddle did smash a second for Pools but it was to prove little more than a consolation.
Charlton started brightly and should have been ahead inside 10 minutes when the ball dropped kindly for Bradley Wright-Phillips 12 yards from goal.
He connected with a sweet half-volley only for Jack Baldwin to block inside the six-yard area and Scott Wagstaff somehow turned the rebound over the crossbar with the goal gaping.
There was another let-off for Pools 10 minutes later when Wright-Phillips took a swing at Johnnie Jackson’s centre only to scuff woefully wide from eight yards.
But it was the visitors who stole the lead on 31 minutes, Hartley hooking home from close range after Neil Austin’s corner had made its way through bodies to the feet of the centre-back.
Wright-Phillips had a chance to draw parity almost immediately from the restart but rifled wide when presented with an angle inside the area.
Pools, though, were now in control and Andy Monkhouse went close to doubling the advantage just before the break when he checked infield from the left before curling narrowly wide.
It was a similar story after the break as the champions struggled to break down the visiting rearguard and Pools went in search of a second.
Ryan Noble did well to spin clear of the lumbering Michael Morrison before being chopped down just outside the area.
The defender escaped caution but Austin came within a fingertip of making them pay when his free-kick was brushed wide by a diving Ben Hamer.
But the Addicks did draw level in the 70th minute as Hollands stooped amid a crowded six-yard box to glance into the bottom corner from Dale Stephens’ delivery.
And the South Londoners would have been ahead had Flinders not raced from his line to divert Kermogrant’s first-time stab over the crossbar after he had peeled clear of a static backline.
But there was nothing the Pools keeper could do about Haynes’ effort 12 minutes from time, the unmarked substitute planting a powerful header into the back of the net from point-blank range after Stephens had returned a clearance into the danger zone.
And Kermogrant soon had his goal, peeling away at the far post to dispatch a sublime first-time volley over the head of Flinders and into the opposite corner of the goal.
However, there was still time for Liddle to spark hope of a late comeback when his 20-yard volley was deflected into the top corner on 87 minutes.