HARTLEPOOL United suffered their sixth defeat on the spin when they went down to promotion-hopefuls Burton Albion.
Pools sunk by three goals on their first visit to the Pirelli Stadium are now in grave trouble, just two points above the drop zone.
The opener came in the 28th-minute, Billy Kee getting on the end of a long Ian Sharps pass to beat Andy Rafferty low down to his left.
Rafferty was beaten again in the 57th minute, Jimmy Phillips shooting past him from the edge of the area.
And ther keeper was picking the ball out of his net again six minutes from time through a stunning Lee Bell free-kick.
The day was made even worse by the loss of top scorer Luke James, who was helped off the field after 15 minutes with an ankle injury.
Burton were first on the attack with the opening shot of the contest coming from Jimmy Phillups who was first to a cross from right back Phil Edwards.
His shot went wide of Andy Rafferty’s left-hand post.
Pools though had settled nicely and Poole put James down the left side but his cross was too strong for Franks.
But Pools suffered a hammer blow after losing James.
The star stumbled off the side of the pitch when trying to keep the ball in.
The teenager returned to the field after lengthy treatment from physio Ian Gallagher but looked in some discomfort.
So it proved as he went down moments later and was helped from the pitch.
Marlon Harewood came on to play the lone role up top.
Burton won the first corner in the 18th minute from which Kee seemed to go down easily, prompting anger from Walton and Monkhouse, plus the away fans behind the goal.
But Pools squandered a gilt-edged chance to take the lead in the 21st minute.
Poole won the ball in the middle of the park to find Monkhouse. The winger released Harewood into the box and the experienced forward looked certain to score.
Harewood took an age to shoot and even had time for a step-over. But when he did shoot, it was straight at Dean Lyness.
Relieved by that let-off, Burton went back on the attack and Rafferty collected Phillips’ shot at the second attempt while Alex MacDonald went wide from long-range.
Pools went behind in the 28th minute.
Centre-half Ian Sharps played a long ball from the half-weay line and it went all the way through to KEE, whose low right-foot shot beat Rafferty to his left.
Burton had another sight of goal when Brad Walker brought down Robbie Weir 25 yards out. But Kee’s effort went high over Rafferty’s bar.
Burton Albion 1
Pools came out for the second half looking busy, wining an early free-kick and corner.
From Walton’s flag-kick from the right, Collins got up to win it but his glancing header went harmlessly wide.
Play soon switched to the other end, where Callum McFadzean’s whipped left-foot corner from the right flew across the face of Rafferty’s goal.
Burton had another opportunity in the 53rd minute but Walton blocked Kee’s shot.
But a home goal looked on the cards and it duly arrived in the 57th minute. Burton got the ball into the away box where Robbie Weir teed up PHILLIPS, whose right-foot shot was too powerful for Rafferty, going past the keeper’s dive to the left.
Pools tried to come back and won two corners in quick succession, both of which were dealt with by Lyness in goal.
Cooper’s side had certainly not given up the ghost and Poole flashed a header wide in the 63rd minute.
Pools made their second change four minutes later, bringing on Jack Barmby for Franks with Jack Compton replacing Poole 17 minutes from time.
The away side were struggling to get anything going.
They were gifted a corner after Burton defender Shane Sherriff was injured and Albion kicked the ball out for treatment.
But referee Michael Bull saw a foul in the box and awarded the Brewers a free-kick.
And Burton put the seal on victory with a brilliant third six minutes from time.
Pools were penalised seven yards outside the box. It looked tailor-made for a left foot but instead it was the right foot of LEE BELL who blasted his shot low into Rafferyty’s bottom right-hand corner.#
Such had been the abject finale, Pools fans dance behind the home goal began dancing after Pools had a shot on target, keeper Lyeness saving comfortably from Barmby’s shot.
BURTON ALBION 3
HARTLEPOOL UNITED 0
BURTON: Lyness, Edwards, Sharps, Sherriff, MacDonald, Weir, Bell, Phillips, Kee, Alexander.
Subs: Hall, Hemmings, Knowles, Holness, Palmer, Gray, Symes
POOLS: Rafferty, Duckworth, Harrison, Collins, Holden, Franks, Walker, Walton, Monkhouse, Poole, James.
Subs: Flinders, Richards, Jones, Oliver, Barmby, Compton, Harewood
Referee: M Bull