A cruel last-minute goal denied Pools a share of the points at Whaddon Road as Koby Arthur climbed off the bench to find the net and continue Cheltenham Town’s fine start to the season.
It was rough on Colin Cooper’s men who had scrapped and fought for everything they were worth in the face of an aerial bombardment from the hosts in the second half.
They were applauded from the field by 120 Pools fans who were just as gutted by the late goal from the Town substitute after seeing their team do more than enough to take a share of the spoils.
Both sides began the game in cautious mood and chances during a cagey first half were at a premium; Terry Gornell firing one effort wide and his strike partner Byron Harrison sending two more high over the bar.
At the other end, Charlie Wyke and Marlon Harewood were struggling to keep hold of the balls that were being delivered up to them but Wyke did manage to find enough time in possession to hit Pools’ first effort on goal though his low drive was easily held by Trevor Carson.
The Robins were employing a wing-back system again and Craig Braham-Barrett looked a handful down the left at times, launching a ferocious effort on goal from the left edge of the area which Scott Flinders did well to parry out to safety.
Gornell came close to opening the scoring when right wing-back Lee Vaughan prodded a low cross in to the front man who did well to turn and strike at goal but it went wide off the outside of the front post with Flinders throwing out a hand to cover it.
Brobbel was doing as much defensive work as attacking but he wriggled in to good space down the left corner to feed a low ball across goal where Wyke found himself in a good area but was closed down quickly and his shot was deflected clear.
Vaughan’s battle with Brobbel continued when he managed to sneak inside the Pools winger and fizz a low ball across goal which flashed through Neil Austin’s legs before Sam Collins came to the rescue with a fine clearance.
The hosts began the second half with more intent and a precise ball in to the edge of the box from Richards gave Wynter the chance to turn and shoot but his effort was tame and held by Flinders.
Brobbel got away down the left to supply an inswinging cross in to the box but although Wyke won the header his glancing effort lacked power and was saved by Carson.
It was The Robins who were carrying more threat though as they began to pump a constant stream of balls in to the Pools’ penalty area, Steve Elliott got free on the end of one of them but headed straight at Flinders.
Substitute John Marquis added more danger to the Town attack and when he spun away down the right hand side the ball did finally beat Flinders only to cannon back off the base of the post where Walker swept it to safety.
There were huge calls for a penalty from the home side minutes later when Harrison seemed to be clipped by Flinders as he got to the ball but referee Sarginson deemed that the front man had run in to Marquis and turned down the appeals – much to Pools’ relief.
With ten minutes remaining Marquis must have thought he’d won it; Town got away down the right of the box and when substitute Koby Arthur stood a cross up the far post Marquis powered a header back across goal only to see Flinders produce an incredible finger-tip save on to the cross bar.
It was a moment which seemed to have earned Pools a point before Arthur – one of the smallest men on the pitch – managed to find space in the area to nod the most painful of last minute winners.
Cooper threw on Luke James and Jack Compton in search of a leveller in injury time but it was too late and the Robins continued their fine run as Pools contemplated a long journey home empty-handed.
Cheltenham Town 1 Pools 0
Attendance: 2735 (120 Pools)
Booked: Harewood (59), Austin (81)
Cheltenham Town: Carson, Vaughan (Sterling-James 71), Braham-Barrett, Elliott, M Taylor, Brown, Wynter, Richards, Gornell (Marquis 60), Harrison (Arthur 78), J Taylor
Subs Not Used: Haworth, Deaman, Hanks, Black.
Pools: Flinders, Duckworth, Collins, Bates, Austin, Franks (James 90), Walker, Miller, Brobbel (Compton 90), Wyke, Harewood (Woods 70).
Subs Not Used: Dixon, Richards, Holden, Harrison.