Gary Coxall has tonight resigned as chairman of Hartlepool United.
Coxall, who stands down five days before the biggest game in the club's history, says he felt it would "divide" the club if he continued in the role at a crucial time when the club needed to come together.
Former finance director Pam Duxbury has become the new chief executive and taken on Coxall's role, with the former chairman adding that Pools will be exploring a fan-ownership model for Hartlepool United.
Pools, two points adrift of safety in League Two, host Doncaster Rovers at the Northern Gas and Power Stadium on Saturday teatime knowing they need to win to stand any chance of survival.
It has been a dramatic few weeks at The Vic, with Dave Jones sacked as manager on April 24, with defender Matthew Bates put in temporary charge alongside Billy Paynter, Stuart Parnaby and physio Ian Gallagher.
Coxall had come under increasing pressure from supporters in recent weeks, with fans calling for him to go during the defeat to Barnet.
SportMail understands Coxall remains a significant shareholder at Pools - owning just short of 50 per cent - despite standing down as chairman. JPNG took over from Pools’ previous owners IOR in June 2015.
Duxbury met with representatives from the Hartlepool United Supporters' Trust tonight to start discussions around a fan-ownership model.
A Trust spokesman thanked Duxbury for meeting with them, adding they are "pleased to finally say that a working partnership is now established between the fans and the Club," with more details to be announced in due course.
In an emotional statement, outgoing chairman Coxall said: "It is with huge sadness that I announce that, after some serious consideration over the past two weeks, I have decided to resign from my position as Chairman of our Club.
"I am not oblivious to my surroundings and the feeling towards my tenure as Chairman and I feel that, should I continue, it would divide the Club at a time when it needs to come together as one.
"Therefore, if my Chairmanship is a factor in preventing that togetherness, then I will happily step aside for the good of the Club. The Club is more important.
"There has been some criticism of me over the previous few months, some justified and some completely untrue and so wide of the mark it's incredible.
"However, now is not the time to address those points, but I am confident that over the coming months it will be clear the Club has always come first, even before my own family in some cases.
"I am pleased to announce that Pam Duxbury will continue with our original plan of assuming the role of CEO, but will additionally assume all of the duties of the Chair, with my full support and the full support of everyone at the Club.
"I have agreed and passed a mandate to Pam for her to explore conversion to a fan ownership model for Hartlepool United.
"To this end, as of this evening, she has met with the Supporters' Trust to start discussions, and further announcements will be made in due course.
"All I ask is that you continue to give your fantastic support to the team - we are certainly not out of this yet, not by a long way, and I still believe that we can retain our League Two status.
"For me personally, I will always be a Hartlepool United fan and the Club will forever be in my heart. #NSD"
A Trust statement read: "Hartlepool United Supporters Trust Board would like to wish Pam Duxbury, the new CEO of Hartlepool United Football Club, well in her new venture and appreciate her forthright and timely communication with the Trust Board in relation to Gary Coxall’s resignation and the Club’s future plans.
"We are also pleased to finally say that a working partnership is now established between the fans and the Club.
"For the immediate future we would ask all fans to get behind the team on Saturday and hope they are able to secure league football for next season.
"HUST will be holding an open meeting at 8pm on Thursday 25th May 2017, venue to be confirmed.
"To join HUST - email: members@HUFCsupporterstrust.org.uk"