HARTLEPOOL United were beaten for the first time in eight matches as league leaders Doncaster Rovers ran out comfortable 3-0 victors at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The result leaves Pools eight points from safety with 11 games remaining and the visit of relegation rivals Colchester United next up on Tuesday.
Backed by a season-high travelling contingent of 850, John Hughes’ side were second best throughout and toiled in the final third against a resolute Rovers backline.
Striker Iain Hume broke the deadlock on 35 minutes before second-half goals from James Coppinger and Billy Paynter sealed the win which maintains their one-point advantage at the top of League One.
Doncaster started brightly and were first to threaten, James Husband escaping the attention of Neil Austin inside the penalty area but his cross-cum-shot was dragged to safety by Scott Flinders.
The same player again broke clear inside the danger zone on 20 minutes but a combination of Austin and the sliding Jack Baldwin blocked his path to goal.
With the contest approaching the half-hour mark Pools finally worked an effort on goal and Jon Franks’ 20-yard blast had Gary Woods worried as he scrambled to see it skip wide of the post.
But the breakthrough goal came the way of the hosts as Hume out-foxed Peter Hartley to dance into the area and the Canadian drilled low into the bottom corner from 14 yards.
It could have been two soon after when John Lundstram took aim from similar range but his low effort cracked against the upright.
The scoreline remained the same entering the break with Pools having struggled to break down the hosts.
Flinders had to be on his guard to keep out a Coppinger volley shortly after the restart when the midfielder met a bouncing ball with a sweet strike 25 yards from goal.
But Coppinger did find a way beyond Flinders on 55 minutes, the former Darlington trainee bundling home from a narrow angle after the ball had ran his way inside the six-yard area.
Pools were on the back foot and Flinders was forced into a fine, one-handed claw from the top corner after centre-back Jamie McCombe had headed Coppinger’s cross on goal.
David Cotterill then stung the palms of the visiting netminder having scampered from halfway to within shooting distance.
Flinders was doing his bit to keep the score down and the Pools No.1 was well-positioned to block and hold from Rob Jones after the towering defender had instinctively prodded on goal amid a crowd of bodies from a corner-kick.
Pools did come within a whisker of halving the deficit and the away fans were on their feet when Steve Howard headed back across goal from Evan Horwood’s hanging the centre, the substitute’s effort bouncing inches wide.
Flinders went airborne to deny Paynter a home third when he curled for the far corner on 80 minutes.
But within 60 seconds the substitute had his goal, peeling away at the far post to cushion home a header from Husband’s hanging delivery.