Hartlepool United suffered their first defeat under new manager Craig Hignett at the hands of Notts County at Victoria Park.
Second-half goals from Jake Gray and Billy Paynter saw Pools comeback from two goals behind, but a late Jon Stead goal sealed the visitors’ win.
Stead had put his side ahead in the first half before Liam Noble doubled the Nottingham side’s lead.
Hignett’s men were outplayed in the opening half but were much improved in the second and were unfortunate to lose.
Pools went a goal behind after just four minutes through a fine 20-yard strike from Stead.
Matthew Bates passed out from defence to Carl Magnay, but the midfielder was robbed of the ball and former-Sunderland striker Stead found the top right corner.
In the tenth minute Pools had their first effort on goal but Michael Woods fired following a surging run from Jake Gray.
Notts County doubled their lead in the 14th minute when Elliot Hewitt was found in acres of space on the right wing. He centered to Izale Mcleod who completely missed his kick, but Noble followed in behind the striker and stroked into the bottom right corner from the edge of the box.
In the 33rd minute County somehow failed to make it three. Magnay’s clearance from inside the area was blocked, and the ball fell to ex-Pools man Jason Banton seven yards out but he fired over.
Pools best chance of the first half fell to Nathan Thomas, when a Jordan Richards cross was flicked on, found its’ way to the winger who cut inside but saw his right-foot shot blocked.
The home side came inches from halving the deficit a minute before the break when Gray drove forward and played in Thomas on the left, who then crossed towards Luke James, but the striker’s effort was narrowly blocked wide of the right post.
Captain, Billy Paynter had Pools’ first chance of the second half when, in classic route one style, he brought down a Trevor Carson goal kick on his chest, but his shot sailed high and wide of the goal.
Hartlepool again went close after 56 minute but a James header, from a Thomas free-kick, went a yard wide of the post.
Pools’ got their goal from Crystal Palace-loanee Gray after 62 minutes in spectacular fashion.
The youngster brought down a beautiful cross-field ball from Thomas and fired a half volley across Roy Carroll and in off the far post.
Pools then dominated and were unlucky not to score first through Thomas and then Gray.
Hignett’s side were level after 66 minutes when the impressive Thomas dribbled down the left, crossed low for Paynter, and the skipper bundled home his third goal in three games.
James almost put his side ahead in the 69th minute when he fired wide of the left-hand post after Paynter laid the ball off to him in the box.
In the 79th minute Paynter missed the chance to put Pools ahead from two-yards out when he seemed certain to score.
James spun his marker and crossed low but Paynter couldn’t make any meaningful contact.
With Pools still reeling from that miss Stead got Notts County’s winner with the ball deflecting in off the striker from a corner after 80 minutes.
Minutes later Pools were almost back level when Thomas yet again crossed from the left and Gary fired a shot on goal from six-yards out but Carroll produced a fine save.
Thomas also earned his side a point late on but his shot from the edge of the box flew past the post in injury time.
NOTTS CO 3
Pools: Carson, Richards (Hawkins 46), Bates, Jackson, Jones, Magnay (Fenwick 87), Woods (Featherstone 80), Gray, James, Paynter, Thomas.
Subs: Bartlett, Carroll, Harrison, Featherstone, Hawkins, Oates, Fenwick.
Goals: Gray 62; Paynter 66
Notts County: Carroll, Adams, Smith, Hollis, Thompson, Noble (Atkinson 87), Hewitt, MacKenzie, Banton (Campbell 75), Stead, McLeod (Murray 82).
Subs: Loach, Murray, Sharpe, Campbell, Burke, Atkinson, Audel.
Goals: Stead 4, 80; Noble 14
Referee: David Webb
Att: 3,433 (away 166)