TEN-man Hartlepool United suffered stoppage-time heartache as relegation rivals Oldham Athletic nicked a 2-1 win at Victoria Park.
New Pools boss John Hughes was within three minutes of his first point when Jose Baxter forced home the rebound from his own missed penalty to steal victory for Paul Dickov’s men.
The hosts were reduced in number 15 minutes from time when Neil Austin was given his marching orders, this after Antony Sweeney had cancelled out Baxter’s first-half opener.
The defeat leaves Pools 18 without a win and 10 points from safety at the bottom of League One.
Hughes had reacted to Saturday’s 5-0 drubbing against Coventry City by making three changes, Simon Walton, Steve Howard and Evan Horwood coming in for James Poole, Ryan Noble and Darren Holden.
Pools started brightly and Howard came within a lick of paint of opening the scoring when his glancing header, from Ritchie Humphreys’ in-swinging delivery, cracked the base of the visiting post on seven minutes.
But that confident opening counted for nothing as an individual error proved their undoing on 17 minutes.
Scott Flinders could have put his boot through a routine back-pass but instead chose to roll short in the direction of a team-mate.
However, he only succeeded in finding Matt Derbyshire and he teed-up Baxter for a simple tap-in.
With confidence having taken a battering, Pools saw Humphreys booked for a late slide on Connor Brown and Walton succumb to injury midway through the half, Andy Monkhouse his replacement.
The hosts did not test Dean Bouzanis throughout the entirety of the opening period and so it drew to a close with The Latics leading 1-0.
Pools, like they had done 45 minutes earlier, then made a purposeful start to the half.
Tony Sweeney nodded into the arms of Bouzanis and Peter Hartley flashed a header wide of goal from Jon Franks’ teasing flag-kick.
Pools were in command and Franks found himself one-on-one with Bouzanis just after the hour mark, but the Oldham keeper spread his frame to block.
The netminder again thwarted the same player when he drove towards the bottom corner soon after but Sweeney was on hand to hammer the loose ball into the roof of the net for parity.
Pools lost Austin to that straight red 14 minutes from time following a high lunge on James Wesolowksi and Hughes was faced with a nervy finale.
Youssouf M’Changama then headed against the upright before Jack Baldwin’s handball presented the visitors with an injury-time penalty.
Flinders guessed right and blocked Baxter’s low strike, but the former Everton youngster followed up to hook into the gaping net.