HARTLEPOOL United produced one of their best performances of the season but were left frustrated as promotion-chasing Southampton clung on to claim a goalless draw.
Mick Wadsworth’s men enjoyed the better of the attacking territory throughout the game and laid siege to the visiting goal in the closing stages.
But they were forced to settle for a share of the spoils and so moved 11 points clear of the relegation zone.
Ritchie Humphreys will have to wait for his club-record appearance outing after James Brown was restored to the starting line-up at his expense.
And the hosts made a promising start, the trusty left boot of Evan Horwood serving up a teasing 12th-minute free-kick which Gary Liddle glanced wide.
Horwood was again the architect as Pools went in search of an opener on 34 minutes, this time it was from his corner that Liddle returned a header into the mix where Andy Monkhouse connected with a first-time volley only for Jose Fonte to block its path to goal.
The Saints had offered little at the other end but home keeper Scott Flinders was called into action five minutes before the break, dashing from his line to shin clear Adam Lallana’s low strike after he’d found space inside the area.
The second half opened at a frenetic pace and Ryan Donaldson saw penalty appeals waved away when he toppled under pressure from Jose Fonte on 48 minutes.
Fonte refused to dwell on that close call and the centre-back was unlucky not to net at the other end when his low blast was diverted wide by a courageous Sam Collins.
The ferocity was showing no signs of letting up and Monkhouse then broke free in the area only for Liddle to sky his pull back.
Flinders again came to Pools’ rescue soon after, this time thwarting Richard Chaplow with a gloved diversion after he’d been slipped in on goal by Guly Do Prado.
And so to the opposite end of the pitch, Donaldson sweeping a delightful ball into the danger zone from the right where Antony Sweeney turned a clever hook on goal only for Kelvin Davis to read the midfielder’s intentions.
Peter Hartley was next to have a go on 69 minutes but his 25-yard drive was plucked from the top corner by an airborne Davis.
With 10 minutes remaining it looked for all the world as if Sweeney was eventually about to break the deadlock when Colin Larkin dropped an inch-perfect centre on his right boot.
But Pools’ master marksman lost his footing at the point of impact and Leon McSweeney could only wedge high and wide from the loose ball.
Still the hosts pressed in search of a winner and Larkin was unlucky to be crowded out when wriggling his way into the area on 85 minutes.
Pools: Flinders, Haslam, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Sweeney, Murray (McSweeney 72), Liddle, Monkhouse, Brown (Larkin 46), Donaldson (Boyd 84)
Subs: Rafferty, Yantorno, Gamble, Humphreys
Southampton: Davis, Harding, Fonte, Butterfield, Jaidi, Chamberlain (Barnard 76), Chaplow, Hammond, Lallana, Do Prado, Lambert.
Subs: Shea, Richardson, Schneiderlin, Martin, Gobern, N’Guessan