Hartlepool United were sunk one minute and 46 seconds into injury time at Exeter City.
Pools looked set to end their run of five straight defeats with a well-earned point at St James Park.
But home sub Clinton Morrison played aneat ball to defender Christian Ribeiro who scored past Adam Bartlett from 10 yards.
Pools could, and should, have had at least a point after Rakish Bingham failed to convert a 69th-minute penalty.
Boss Ronnie Moore had made three changes at St James Park. He left out Harry Worley in defence, recalling on-loan central defender Andrew Boyce, with new arrival Brad Halliday at right-back for the suspended Carl Magnay.
With captain Billy Paynter out, Moore brought in Matthew Bates into the holding midfield role alongside Michael Woods and Nicky Featrherstone in a 4-3-3/ 4-5-1 formation.
The three most advanced Pools playedrs were Jake Carroll and Rhys Oates flanking central striker Bingham.
Moore handed the captain’s armband to Featherstone.
Pools started well, winning two early corners.
Sadly, Jake Carroll could not clear the first defender from the first and then overhit the second cross.
There was a good first contribution from Brad Halliday who intercepted a loose Dan Jones ball and ran forward 50 yards with great vigour only to see Rhys Oates overhit a cross for an Exeter goalkick.
Oates redeemed himself with 17th-minute run and shot which deflected off a defender but Bobby Olejnik dived down to his left to prevent a corner.
Exeter were proving to be a neat footballing side. They had a chance to put a free-kick into the Pools box but took it short and passed it around well.
Their first principal threat arrived on the half-hour when Ryan Harley turned Feeatherstone inside out and put in a great ball across the six-yard box but no home player was there to put it in.
Woods set up Bingham into the box in the 31st minute. But the striker’s shot from a narrow angle went just wide of Olejnik’s right-post.
Pools kept up their play with Oates showing some nice touches to find Woods who threaded a good ball through to Featherstone who was robbed by a great tackle by Jordan Tillson.
Eight minutes from the interval, there was danger in the away box from a Jamie McAllister corner, but after a bit of pinball Pools were able to clear from a free-kick after Adam Bartlett was fouled.
Harley then stuck over a good cross from the right which Tom Nichols headed over.
Exeter City 0
Pools were out early for the second half and out the blocks first, Oates winning a corner after a nice run and shot which Oleknik saved down to his left. Alas, Carroll’s corner did not clear the first defender.
Oates then had a glorious chance in the 50th minute when he scooped a close-range shot over the home bar after great work by Featherstone and Bingham.
Exeter also went over the bar when Alex Nicholls shot high above Bartlett’s bar in 58th minute after good play by Wheeler and Ribeiro down the right.
Pools won two corners in quick succession with Troy Brown making one good block from Scott Harrison’s blast.
At the other end, Woods conceded a free-kick 25yards out, with a foul on Oakley and was yellow carded. Harley’s shot from the award was on target and palmed away strongly by Bartlett.
Jones saved Pools in the 64th minute with a great tackle on Morrison.
But Pools had a glorious opportunity to go ahead in the 69th minute. Great play around the box set up Featherstone who was brought down by Matt Oakley, referee Andy Woolmer having no hesitation pointing to the spot.
Bingham picked up the ball, and went to the keeper’s left, but Olejnik guessed right and saved comfortably.
Pools kept plugging away and attacked again with Bates well advanced but Exeter cleared.
The Grecians came back with a couple of corners, sub Lee Holmes shooting straight at Bartlett from the second.
Moore made his first change in the 78th minute after Bingham was injured in the home box, Scott Fenwick coming on.
Bartlett came to Pools rescue nine minutes from time when he made a great save low to right to keep out McAllister header.
Pools looked like seeing out time and had the ball deep in the home half at the start of stoppage time.
But they lost the ball and switched play, forcing Pools to concede a throw in by the away corner flag.
Pools were defending strongly but Morrison played a neat ball to RIBEIRO who slotted past a seemingly unsighted Bartltett.
EXETER CITY 1
HARTLEPOOL UNITED 0
Exeter City: Olejnik, Ribeiro, Tillson, Brown, McAllister, Nicholls (Holmes 66), Oakley (Grant 74), Noble, Harley, Wheeler, Nichols (Morrison 61). Subs: Pym, Woodman, Holmes, Morrison, Oyeleke, McCready, Grant
Goal: Ribeiro 90
Pools: Bartlett, Halliday, Harrison, Boyce, Jones, Bates, Featherstone (capt), Woods, Oates, Bingham (Fenwick 78), Carroll. Subs: Denton, Worley, Walker, Hawkins, Smith, Oyenuga, Fenwick
Booked: Woods 63
Referee: Andy Woolmer
Attendance: 3,135 (Pools 72)