HARTLEPOOL United saw their promotion hopes all but extinguished as play-off rivals Leyton Orient survived a second-half onslaught to claim a 1-0 victory.
The visiting victory set a new club record of 14 league games without defeat and saw them move to within five points of sixth-placed MK Dons.
But Russell Slade’s men were forced to withstand heavy pressure late in the game as Pools twice struck the woodwork.
It had been a bright start by the hosts and in the second minute Ryan Donaldson broke down the right and squared for James Brown, but he blazed over from 12 yards.
Donaldson was running the show and it from his cheeky flick that Paul Murray slid in Brown on seven minutes.
The striker took a touch but still failed to locate the target and smashed narrowly over from eight yards out.
Pools then escaped a visiting penalty appeal when Alex Revell collided with Scott Flinders, referee John Moss choosing not to penalise the home stopper after he took both man and ball.
Having spurned those early openings Brown’s night didn’t get any better when he succumbed to an ankle injury in the 27th minute, Colin Larkin his replacement.
And within 60 seconds of that change Orient were in front, Jimmy Smith sweeping a first-time volley beyond Flinders from 10 yards after Dean Cox had delivered from the right.
The Londoners had bossed the first half and cruised through to the interval with their lead intact.
Donaldson had been Pools’ biggest threat during the opening period but he failed to emerge after the break and was replaced by Joe Gamble.
Pools switched to a 4-5-1 system in a bid to match their dominant guests and the change almost yielded a leveller on 55 minutes when lone frontman Larkin stole in behind the backline only to see a snap shot deflected wide.
From the resulting corner Andy Monkhouse steamed in to connect but his header cleared the target.
Monkhouse then had an even better chance to level on 67 minutes, Sam Collins flicking Evan Horwood’s whipped free-kick onto the brow of the midfielder but his six-yard nod was clawed around the post by Jamie Jones.
The same player again went in search of parity with his head, this time glancing Horwood’s centre onto the roof of Jones’ goal with 15 minutes remaining.
Monkhouse was getting closer and on 81 minutes yet another header, again from a Horwood cross, clipped the top of the crossbar.
But it was Orient midfielder Matt Spring who came within a whisker of gifting Pools a point when his wild mis-kick, from Leon McSweeney’s near-post corner, looped onto the bar before bouncing to safety.
Pools: Flinders, Haslam, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, McSweeney, Liddle, Murray (Boyd 77), Monkhouse, Donaldson (Gamble 46), Brown (Larkin 27)
Subs n/u: Rafferty, Humphreys, Yantorno, Bjornsson
Leyton Orient: Jones, Omuzusi, Whing, Dawson (Chambers 49), Cox, Revell (McGleish 82), Daniels, Spring, Smith, M’Poku (Kane 70), Barrett.
Subs n/u: Forbes, McGleish, Butcher, Tehoue, Carroll.