HARTLEPOOL United recorded a first away win since Boxing Day thanks to an Andy Monkhouse double on the day Ritchie Humphreys wrote his name in the club’s history books.
Humphreys came from the bench in the 82nd minute to set a new appearance record of 473 outings, and he was part of a late rearguard action which successfully protected a slender one-goal lead.
Monkhouse’s opener had arrived on 21 minutes, Sam Collins propelling a trademark long throw into the area where Colin Larkin headed on for his strike partner who controlled before drilling into the bottom corner from eight yards.
Pools were well in the ascendancy and Antony Sweeney should have tested Ben Hamer when presented with a sight of goal just two minutes later but the top scorer sliced wide from 20 yards.
That second goal was duly located, however, one minute shy of the half-hour mark.
Larkin jumped with Matt Taylor in competition for a hopeful punt upfield, forcing the defender to head back towards his goal.
Monkhouse was the grateful recipient and the Pools man defied a narrow angle to slot home a second via the inside of the post.
At the other end Ryan Harley beat Scott Flinders to a chase and the midfielder was unlucky to see a 20-yard lob strike the upright.
Flinders then made amends for that error of judgment in saving from Steve Tully after he had stolen in behind the Pools backline.
Monkhouse should have completed his hat-trick in first-half injury time but saw a close-range stab deflect off the back of his own man Larkin and loop away for a goal-kick.
The home side’s defending was equally shambolic after the break and, after Leon McSweeney had rattled the crossbar with a dipping free-kick, Larkin had a glorious chance to out the game out of sight.
Sweeney burst clear on goal, with Exeter’s backline again at sixes and sevens, and, when he nicked by a grounded Hamer, Larkin arrived to turn the loose ball on goal but was unable to steer either side of the recovering Richard Duffy who blocked on the line.
Exeter, though, got themselves right back in it on 59 minutes when Jamie Cureton squeezed home Harley’s centre.
Joe Gamble was then unlucky not to restore the two-goal cushion when his measured curler was turned over by a flying Hamer.
After that Pools had Flinders to thank for two wonderful saves, first denying Harley from point-blank range before turning Cureton’s header from similar distance over the crossbar.
Exeter City: Hamer, Duffy (Nardiello 64), Dunne, Taylor, Harley, Noble, Golbourne, Cureton, Jones (Edwards 46), O’Flynn (Logan 46)
Subs: Krysiak, Nardiello, Stewart, Sercombe, Bennett.
Pools: Flinders, Haslam, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, McSweeney, Gamble (Humphreys 82), Liddle, Sweeney, Monkhouse, Larkin (Donaldson 67)
Subs: Rafferty, Humphreys, Yantorno, Boyd, Behan, Donaldson, Bjornsson.
Pools: Hartley, Gamble, Donaldson
Attendance: 4,931 (65)