Preston 1 Hartlepool United 0: EFL Cup heartbreak for Pools
Eoin Doyle struck a 94th-minute winner to break Hartlepool United's hearts in the EFL Cip
With extra-time looming, Preston broke from an injury-time Pools attack and despite some brave defending from Callum Robinson's cross, the North End striker converted from close range.
Pools made a confident start and knocked the ball around with confidence.
Preston created little in the early stages with Paul Gallagher putting a free-kick into the pink wall while Toto Nsiala's backside blocked a long-range Ben Pringle shot.
Bartlett made a good save high to his left from Pringle midway through the half and from the resulting corner, Joe Garner's header was blocked with Preston appealling, with no success, for a handball.
Pools had scant joy going forward but for a fine run down the left by Nathan Thomas.
But when the forward was fouled in a central position, Pools had a chance when Nicky Deverdics played in a delightful free-kjick which Nsiala could not quite get to.
There was danger 10 minutes before the break when Doyle crossed from the right but Garner was unable to find the target with his header.
Preston went even closer from Paul Huntington's corner when Alan Browne headed just wide.
Pools made a strong start to the second half when Thomas's shot looped up, forcing Bailey Wright to make a vital clearance with Josh Laurent lurking.
And when Thomas was fouled 22 yards out, Deverdics lifted the free-kick over the wall but also over the bar.
Pools had the ball in the net in the 66th minute through Alessandra but the celebrations were cut short when the flag went up for offside.
Preston then went mighty close on two occasions with subsJordan Hugill and Callum Robinson involved.
First Hugill's header was cleared superbly off the line by Michael Woods before Robinson set up Doyle who got the better of Bartlett but saw his shot hit the post.
There was no shortage of late drama as Bartlett made a brilliant save from Doyle and in the immediate aftermath, Bates and Nsiala made blocks from Doyle and Hugill.
Pools stormed forward at the end of normal time and when Thomas was brought down, the away side had a great position.
But instead of shooting, they tried a clever move, only for PNE to break, with Robinson shooting over with his left foot.
Incredibly, Pools had another free-kick with Alessandra playing it in, North End getting in the clearance as three away players went for it.
But it let to Preston going upfield for DOYLE to break Pools' hearts.
PRESTON NORTH END 1
HARTLEPOOL UNITED 0