LEON Clarke scored in the final minute of the game for Coventry City to end Hartlepool United’s FA Cup dream for this season.
The Coventry hitman scored his first in the 36th minute but Pools hit after the break back through Jack Baldwin in the 87th minute only for Clarke to score his second in added on time.
It was heartbreaking for the Pools players who had done so well to get back into the tie.
Pools boss Colin Cooper made two changes to his side for the match against the Sky Blues from League One.
The match, being played at a sparse and bitterly cold Sixfields Stadium in Northampton, saw Bradley Walker and Jack Compton returned to the starting line-up after Saturday’s 2-2 draw away to Cheltenham Town in Sky Bet League Two.
Club captain Antony Sweeney and left-back Darren Holden dropped down to the bench.
Pools lined-up in a 4-5-1 formation, with Andy Monkhouse on the right hand flank and Compton starting on the left.
Cooper admitted his 3-5-2 formation against Cheltenham at the weekend hadn’t worked out as he’d planned and the Pools gaffer went for a more compact formation for the FA Cup clash.
The winners of tonight’s tie will play Championship side Barnsley, managed by former Pools manager Danny Wilson, on Saturday, Janaury 4th.
It was an evenly matched opening stages with both sides pressing forward looking for the win that will secure them a place in the Third Round and £27,000 in prize money.
Despite the Sixfields Stadium resembling a reserve game with two sides closed, the game itself was full of life and started at 100mph.
There was little in the way of chances though until the 15th minute, when Leon Clarke looked set to give the Sky Blues the lead from close range from a whipped cross across the box.
But Scott Flinders was on hand to spread himself low - Peter Schmeichel-esque - and deny Clarke, a wonderful stop and you’d do well to see a better one this season.
The pace of the game didn’t settle as the game wore on but it was the Sky Blues who attacked with more purpose.
Coventry, playing at Northampton after going into administration earlier this year, looked neat and tidy in possession and had a dangerous front pairing of Clarke and Callum Wilson for the Pools defence to deal with.
Pools’ first clear chance came in the 28th minute, Franks found himself with some space inside the area but his angled shot from the right-hand side was easily held by Joe Murphy in the Coventry goal.
Wilson almost found himself in on goal in the 32nd minute but on-loan Middlesbrough defender Christian Burgess just managed to nick the ball off his foot on the edge of the area, to allow Flinders to gather the ball.
The warning signs were there though.
And Coventry took the lead in the 36th minute courtesy of Clarke, who took advantage of a static Pools back line, drawing Flinders out of goal before cooly slotting the ball into the net with his right foot from about eight-yards out.
Burgess could have equalised two minutes later but his free header from a Simon Walton free-kick was powered wide of the left hand post.
Wilson and John Fleck both went close with efforts as the half drew to a close.
HALF TIME: Coventry City 1 Pools 0
The second half started in very much the same fashion as the first ended, with Clarke almost doubling the lead for Coventry in the 47th minute.
He fought his way past Burgess inside the penalty area and his shot from the left hand side hit the post and Flinders just about managed to smother the ball before it crossed the line.
Flinders had to be alert again, this time in the 54th minute to spread himself well and deny Clarke who had been put through on goal by Franck Moussa.
The ball was eventually cleared for a corner by Burgess as Pools started the second half hanging on for their FA Cup lives.
Cooper then made the first move from the touchline, bringing on 10-goal top scorer Luke James for Compton, who had been unable to influence the match.
Franks was pushed out to the right flank, with 19-year-old James up front.
Pools started to show more attacking intent with on-loan Middlesbrough midfielder Matty Dolan firing an effort wide in the 62nd minute.
Michael Duckworth was seeing more of the ball and powerhouse Brad Walker in the centre of midfield was also starting to get on the ball more in the final third.
Coventry hit back and Clarke nodded the ball wide from the six-yard box after an excellent deep cross from their full back Blair Adams.
The game was open again and upped in pace as Jack Baldwin headed into the hands of Murphy after a good free kick from Dolan, but it was comfortable for the Sky Blues keeper.
Cooper then brought on James Poole, for Walton, as Pools reverted to a 4-4-1-1 formation as the game headed into the final 20 minutes.
With 13 minutes left to play Flinders was stranded as Wilson’s effort took a deflection onto the crossbar and over for a corner.
Baldwin was booked in the 81st minute as Coventry were awarded a free-kick 25-yards out from the Pools goal but Cyrus Christie’s ambitious effort was comfortably over the bar.
Veteran defender Sam Collins was brought on for Franks and the Yorkshireman was asked to lead the line for Pools, with Monkhouse, James and Poole playing off him.
The tactical switch energised Pools and they equalised through a Baldwin header from a Dolan corner in the 87th minute.
The defender powered the header home from inside the six-yard box to send the away fans into raptures.
Clarke had another chance to snatch it for the Sky Blues in added on time but again headed wide.
Then, with moments left, Leon Clarke scored his second of the game to send the Sky Blues into the Third Round of the FA Cup after he pounced on a rebound from a Flinders save to fire it home.
The goal came from a debatable free-kick that Cooper and Hignett were incensed by but it came too late for Pools to hit back.
FULL TIME: Coventry City 2 Pools 1
Hartlepool United: Flinders, Austin (C), Duckworth, Burgess, Baldwin, Dolan, Walton (Poole, 69) Compton (James, 56), Walker, Monkhouse, Franks (Collins, 82)
Subs Not Used: Rafferty, Holden, Sweeney, Rodney.
Goal: Baldwin, 87.
Booked: Baldwin, Monkhouse.
Coventry City: Murphy, Christie, Adams, Thomas, Fleck, Baker (Webster, 90), J. Clarke, Moussa, Seabourne, Wilson (Daniels, 83), L. Clarke.
Subs Not Used: Gott, Barton, Phillips, Garner, Haynes.
Goal: Clarke, 36, 90.
Referee: Keith Hill (Staffordshire)
Attendance: 1,214, (Pools 225)