HARTLEPOOL United have pulled off THE Greatest Escape after beating Exeter City 2-1 to secure their Football League status after a dramatic afternoon.
Goals from Scott Fenwick and Jordan Hugill were enough to beat Exeter and defeats for Tranmere Rovers and Cheltenham Town have seen Pools safe.
It was an unbelievable afternoon at The Vic, with great scenes of celebration at the final whistle as Ronnie Moore and his squad celebrated with the fans.
Pools were 10 points adrift less than two months ago but are now safe with one game to go.
Winger Jack Compton was restored to the starting line-up after nine games out, with Matthew Bates starting at centre-back alongside Scott Harrison.
Scott Fenwick started up front alongside Jordan Hugill, while there was a place on the bench for Tommy Miller after six months out of the first team picture.
Ahead of the game the club handed out their annual player of the year awards.
Away player went to Michael Woods, with Scott Harrison picking up supporters’ and players’ player of the year.
It was an electric atmosphere from the start, with Victoria Park hosting another big crowd.
It lifted Pools, who took the lead 15 minutes in through Fenwick.
The ball was flicked on by Hugill, Jordan Moore-Taylor slipped and FENWICK took full advantage, keeping his cool to pass the ball into the corner of the net.
The lead lasted all of two minutes.
Liam Sercombe whipped in a corner, Graham Cummins was free six yards out but his header was deflected by the diving Scott Flinders.
From the resulting corner CUMMINS did exactly the same thing, this time finding the back of the bet.
It was shambolic defending from Pools.
Ronnie Moore’s Pools should have been 2-1 up after 25 minutes, but Fenwick’s close-range shot from a Dan Jones cross was saved well by James Hamon.
Further clear chances were few and far between as both sides battled to dominate possession.
The breakthrough came on the stroke of half-time, Aaron Tshibola did well to win the ball on the half way line.
He showed composure before playing in Preston North End loanee HUGILL, who showed great strength and composure before finishing into the corner of the net from the edge of the area.
Half-Time: Pools 2 Exeter 1
With the Great Escape theme raining down from the terraces, Pools enjoyed a strong period of pressure at the start of the second half.
Compton looked dangerous on the left wing, while Hugill and Fenwick continued to cause problems.
Just past the hour mark Paul Tisdale made his second sub, with goalscorer Cummins replaced by Clinton Morrisson - who Colin Cooper tried to sign back in October.
Hugill, who was walking a tight disciplinary tightrope after being booked first half, was then hooked for Marlon Harewood.
Pools began to sit deeper and deeper as the intensity levels grew inside Victoria Park.
Fenwick, who led the line well, saw a shot blocked with 15 minutes left to go as Pools looked for a decisive third.
With 10 minutes left to play, Compton was replaced by Tommy Miller - his 600th career appearance.
There was a scramble in the Pools penalty area with five minutes to go, but Exeter were unable to take advantage.
But Pools held on to clinch a vital win and their Football League survival.
Full-Time: Pools 2 Exeter 1
Pools (4-4-2): Flinders (C), Austin, Harrison, Bates, D Jones, Franks, Featherstone, Tshibola, Compton (Miller, 80), Hugill (Harewood, 68) Fenwick.
Subs Not Used: Maxted, Duckworth, Walker, Nelson-Addy, J Jones.
Booked: Hugill (8)
Scorer: Fenwick (15), Hugill (45)
Exeter: Hamon; Davies, Bennett, Moore-Taylor, McAllister; Sercombe, Oakley, Harley, Keohane, (Nichols, 68); Nicholls (Wheeler, 45), Cummins (Morrisson, 64).
Subs Not Used: Pym, Butterfield, Tillson, Jay.
Booked: Harley (40)
Scorer: Cummins (17)
Referee: Carl Boyeson (East Yorkshire)
Attendance: 4,994 (149 Exeter City)