HARTLEPOOL United survived for 45 minutes against promotion-chasing Southampton but saw captain Sam Collins sent off at the beginning of the second half before slipping to a 2-0 defeat.
Mick Wadsworth’s men had battled valiantly against the second-placed Saints only to see the game turn on its head in the 49th minute when Collins was dismissed for a professional foul on Rickie Lambert, the forward netting the resulting penalty.
The hosts were chasing the win to maintain their automatic-promotion hopes but didn’t have it all their own way during a well-fought opening period.
Marauding left-back Dan Harding was the chief attacking threat and twice during the opening 20 minutes did he flash low crosses through the six-yard box without any takers.
Guly Do Prado did turn home one of Harding’s deliveries on 20 minutes but that effort was chalked off by a linesman’s flag.
The visitors then had Scott Flinders to thank as he stood strong to block Lambert’s close-range blast.
Flinders then kept out Adam Lallana’s 20-yard curler before dashing from his line to thwart Do Prado after he had danced by two Pools shirts inside the area.
Pools survived until half-time but that good work was undone within four minutes of the restart.
Do Prado’s clever backheel sprung Lambert clear and, with Collins struggling to get on terms, the striker toppled under pressure from the skipper.
The outcome was a straight red card for Collins and a penalty, converted by Lambert.
The hosts, however, failed to make their numerical advantage tell and it was Pools who enjoyed the better of the openings in the wake of the dismissal.
First, it was substitute Michael Mackay who latched onto Monkhouse’s headed flick but the forward was unable to find a way past Kelvin Davis and his 10-yard stab was saved.
Mackay was making a nuisance of himself and was unlucky not to level when getting on the end of Leon McSweeney’s near-post cross on 75 minutes, his header looping onto the roof the net.
But the killer goal came 10 minutes from time, Jose Fonte ghosting unmarked onto Lambert’s cute free-kick to steer a six-yard header beyond a helpless Flinders.
Southampton: Davis, Richardson, Fonte (Martin 84), Seabourne, Harding, Do Prado (Chaplow 70), Stephens, Hammond, Lallana (Forte 84), Lambert, Connolly.
Subs: Boalkowski, Dickson, Butterfield, N’Guessan.
Pools: Flinders, Haslam, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Sweeney, Liddle, Gamble, Monkhouse, Yantorno (McSweeney 52), Humphreys (Mackay 54)
Subs: Rafferty, Austin, Larkin, Boyd, Behan.