HARTLEPOOL United failed to show for their basement battle at Oldham Athletic as the hosts emerged comfortable 3-0 winners.
The defeat leaves John Hughes’ side seven points from safety with just seven games remaining and sees their opponents climb clear of the relegation zone following their first match under the care of Lee Johnson.
Pools, despite a bright opening, deserved nothing from the game with shoddy defending contributing to all three of the home side’s goals.
At the other end of the park they again struggled to create as their scoreless run was extended to seven-and-a-half hours.
With Hughes having made two changes – Steve Howard and Nathan Luscombe replacing Charlie Wyke and the injured Ritchie Humphreys – his side had started purposefully.
Luscombe steamed on to a half-cleared corner after just two minutes but his first-time volley was deflected wide.
From the resulting flag-kick Evan Horwood clipped towards the penalty spot and Peter Hartley, out-muscling his marker to connect, was unlucky to see his bullet header blocked on the line by goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis.
But the hosts soon fashioned an opening of their own and Scott Flinders was forced to gather at the second attempt after Lee Croft had stabbed on goal from 16 yards after a neat exchange with Corey Smith.
And Flinders was called into action soon after when Jose Baxter escaped the attention of Simon Walton and slammed towards the bottom corner from 20 yards, the visiting netminder again collecting after an initial parry.
There was nothing he could do about Oldham’s opener on 17 minutes, however.
Baxter was afforded too much space to cross from the left and his incisive whip was turned home by the forehead of Robbie Simpson, barging by the attention of Hartley six yards from goal.
It should have been two when Croft ran unchallenged through the heart of the Pools backline but his low blast was saved by the on-rushing Flinders.
Pools were forced into a change on 26 minutes with James Poole, having landed awkwardly on his left knee, replaced by Andy Monkhouse.
But within 60 seconds they had conceded again – and it was another free header.
Former Sunderland defender Jean-Yves M’Voto was the man to profit this time as he stretched to flash home another Baxter centre from eight yards on 27 minutes.
The home side continued to dominate and were good value for their two-goal lead entering the break.
Hughes sought to energise his side with the introduction of teenage striker Luke James, Nathan Luscombe the man making way.
But still they struggled to threaten the home goal and by the hour mark the closest they had came was a Monkhouse shot which was scuffed wide from 14 yards after good work by Horwood down the left.
Antony Sweeney might have done better with a header from a Franks corner on 67 minutes but his six-yard effort looped over the crossbar.
But The Latics put the game out of sight just two minutes later when Baxter dispatched a sweet half-volley into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Pools centre-back Sam Collins spurned a glorious chance late on when Franks landed a free-kick on his brow inside the six-yard area but the veteran steered wide.