Neale Cooper sent out a strong side to face Premier League Sunderland at a sunny Victoria Park asking them to step up the pace of their pre season preparations.
The Pools boss named all three of his summer signings in the starting line-up, and Scott Flinders started in goal after overcoming a thigh injury which frustrated him during the trip to Holland.
Backed by a large and noisy contingent of fans, Sunderland were in action for the first time since returning to the country from South Korea - and Martin O'Neill included former Pools loan man Ryan Noble in his starting eleven.
Steve Howard was making his second Victoria Park debut since returning to the Club during the close season - and it was a game he'd been looking forward to given he had grown up a Newcastle fan.
It was no surprise then when Howard latched on to a through ball, showed great strength to hold off Titus Bramble and then casually rolled the ball under Simon Mignolet to make it 1-0 on eight minutes.
Howard could have doubled the lead when he prodded wide from the edge of the box after being fed by Evan Horwood, while at the other end David Meyler got away down the right only to see his front post cross blocked away by Andy Monkhouse.
Jack Colback showed great skill to get away from Neil Austin down the left and provide a cross for Ryan Noble but the front man didn't get enough on his header and Horwood was able to clear.
A confident James rifled a long range effort over the bar, while Meyler stung the palms of Flinders after being teed up by Fraizer Campbell on the edge of the penalty area.
Perhaps the half time boos from the travelling fans had rung in the ears of the Sunderland players because they came out at a higher tempo after the break.
Wickham saw a shot well held by Flinders low, before Campell's drive was deflected a yard or two wide of the upright as Martin O'Neill's men looked more threatening going forward.
Meyler got in on the act curling one just wide from twenty-five yards, while Richardson must have thought he'd levelled when his sizzling low drive whizzed past the far post after strong midfield work from Cattermole.
Wickham saw another effort deflected up and towards goal but Flinders did well to adjust and turn it over, before Craig Gardner tested Flinders from long-range - again without success.
Gardner had another chance moments later when Campbell was brought down by Hartley and a free-kick was awarded on the edge of the box, but the wall did its job and blocked away his driven effort.
Flinders showed his class with a quarter of an hour remaining when a left wing corner was sweetly met by Campbell eight yards out but the Pools keeper somehow got down low to his right and propelled the ball up and over the bar. A stunning save.
Sunderland's night was summed up in injury time when Campbell slammed an effort wide from eight yards when it looked easier to have hit the net.
But for as much as Sunderland pressed, they could not find their way through a resolute and determined Pools backline - something which will give Neale Cooper plenty of encouragement ahead of the new campaign.
And even though it was only a friendly, there will have been few better ways that Steve Howard would have dreamed of re-launching his Pools career with the winning goal against the Wearsiders.
Full Time: Pools 1 Sunderland 0
Pools: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood (Holden 65), Franks (Poole 62), Sweeney, Walton (Murray 62), Monkhouse, Howard (Nish 74), James (Humphreys 74).
Subs not used: McHugh, Richards.
Sunderland: Mignolet, Gardner, Kilgallon (Laing 80), Bramble, Richardson, Campbell, Meyler, Cattermole (Knott 80), Colback, Wickham (Reed 69), Noble.
Subs not used: Westwood, Lynch, Deacon.
Attendance: 5,424 (3,497 Sunderland fans)