HOW Hartlepool United could do with a win tonight against Southend United.
GAVIN LEDWITH looks back to 1986 and a vital win over the Essex side.
IT was a season which started so well and promised so much for so long.
Parked in the middle of yet another decade of struggle, the 1985-86 campaign was a welcome change.
Old stars such as Bob Newton returned to the club while new heroes like Brian Honour were firmly establishing themselves in the side.
Billy Horner's team were also challenging for automatic promotion from Division Four until the final weeks of the season.
Even a nine-game winless run between February and the start of April had failed to completely end Pools' hopes of going up.
By the time Southend United visited on April 12, the home side had regained their form and were confident of defeating the mid-table Shrimpers.
Typically they made life difficult for themselves and fell behind to a 19th minute Danny O'Shea header.
Horner's half-time rollicking certainly worked as Alan Little levelled within 28 seconds when he buried an Honour cross.
Honour then scored his 11th goal of the season just three minutes later with a right-footed curler from 30 yards.
He also gained a second assist when he set up Nigel Walker for the third on the hour.
Goalkeeper Eddie Blackburn's foul on O'Shea allowed Steve Hatter to score a 78th penalty and set up a tense finale.
Yet Pools held on to keep their promotion dream alive and the Mail's match report concluded: "No-one could have questioned their desire to win in the first 15 minutes of the second half."
A relieved Horner said afterwards: "The last few minutes were nail-biting and should not have been.
"We are starting a week of crucial games and the first one is always the hardest.
"We have got to keep winning and the other teams will keep looking over their shoulders."
The first of those matches saw Pools rise to fifth after a 1-0 home win against Torquay United.
But they failed to win any of their final four games and ended up nine points off that all important fourth spot in seventh place.