Second half goals from Michael Woods and Charlie Wyke fired Pools out of the relegation zone as they won for the third time in four visits to Exeter City.
It was a performance combining grit and determination with real attacking flair as Pools produced some of their best football of the campaign to undo an Exeter side who were on the back of four successive league wins.
Pools’ full-backs combined to provide the first half chance of the afternoon as Michael Duckworth got forward to good effect but his deep cross was prodded wide by Dan Jones as he arrived at the far post.
Exeter’s England Youth international Matt Grimes tested Pools with a low drive from a free-kick but the Pools keeper – once again skippering the side – gathered it comfortably in to his chest.
Jones then almost marked only his second start in Pools colours with a wonderful goal; picking up the ball on the halfway line he wandered forward in to shooting range and let fly with a swerving effort which Christy Pym did well to palm over the bar.
Pools were growing in to the game and came closest of all when Duckworth dug out another deep cross where Jones planted a header against the cross bar before Lewis Hawkins’ follow-up was blocked by a lucky Pym.
The hosts looked to get back on the front foot towards the break and Jimmy Keohane dropped a shoulder to fire over, before Grimes forced a wonderful save from Flinders who had to go full-length to his left to tip around the midfielder’s long-distance drive.
And the Pools keeper had to be alert again as Scot Bennett threatened to run in behind Scott Harrison, running from his line to beat the City striker to the ball and clear the danger.
Having stayed in the game in the opening forty-five minutes, Pools showed their teeth after the break and even the home fans – well-versed in attractive football – were moved to applaud some of the stuff being played by the visitors.
Within three minutes of the restart Pools had gone in front; Charlie Wyke held the ball up well and fed Matthew Bates – playing in a more advanced midfield role – and he rolled it on to Lewis Hawkins on the right. Michael Duckworth drove on the outside and chased Hawkins’ pass to the byline and clipped it across to Michael Woods who acrobatically volleyed the ball past Christy Pym in the Exeter goal.
Ryan Brobbel – a key part of Pools’ counter-attacking threat in the second half – almost doubled the lead immediately but his curling shot from the edge of the area just beat the post and went wide.
City had little answer to the pressure and a second goal soon arrived, and it was even better than the first. Wyke exchanged passes with Hawkins as the home defence ran in circles, and then Wyke shimmied past a defender before slotting a composed low finish past Pym to make it 2-0.
Rather than sit back on the lead, Pools continued to press. Wyke saw his shot brilliantly pushed over the bar by Pym after great work from Brobbel on the counter-attack again.
Hawkins – excellent again down the right – was next to try his luck as Pools threatened to run away with it, but this time his rising shot grazed the bar on its way over.
However, with eleven minutes remaining the hosts grabbed a lifeline when Bennett’s close-range header was somehow clawed out by Flinders only for Christian Ribeiro to bundle home the rebound.
It meant for a nervy finish as City’s boisterous fans got right behind their team and Pools were made to defend with real determination.
Grimes struck a great long-range effort just over from distance while substitute David Noble’s curling effort was finger-tipped round the post by Flinders.
Bennett headed over a great chance in injury time before Woods almost sealed it at the other end when he wriggled through the home defence only to be denied by Pym.
Pools were able to see the game out with efficiency though with the outstanding Wyke proving too strong for the hosts’ defence – it was fitting that his proved to be the winning goal.
Full Time: Exeter City 1 Pools 2
Exeter City: Pym, Davies, Ribeiro, Oakley, Woodman, Riley-Lowe (Nichols 61), Butterfield (Noble 72), Grimes, Keohane, Bennett, Cummins (Wheeler 61).
Subs not used: Hamon, Tillson, Jay, Watkins.
Pools: Flinders, Duckworth, Harrison, Austin, Jones, Miller, Bates, Wood, Brobbel, Hawkins Franks 91), Wyke.
Subs not used: Richards, Holden, Green, Walker, Atkinson, Smith.
Attendance: 3,547 (93 Poolies)
Earlier on Saturday the Youth Team were beaten 3-2 by York City at Welfare Park – full report from that game will follow on Monday.