Pools lost out 1-0 to Coventry City in a tight match at The Ricoh Arena.
And the winning goal came in controversial circumstances as Peter Hartley seemed to be fouled in the build-up before McDonald struck the only goal of the game.
Pools had started well on top and looked confident and assured from the off here, pressing Coventry with some neat play early on.
And when Charlie Wyke did well to beat his man down the left, his cross was almost his past Joe Murphy with an own goal under pressure from James Poole.
The hosts managed one break inside the first 30 minutes; Gary McSheffrey switched play out wide to Cyrus Christie who took advantage of Evan Horwood being caught out of possession to push into the box. Fortunately his strike was sent high over the bar of Scott Flinders’ goal.
Pools won two early corners, both of which hit the same spot to pick out each of Pools’ central defenders but both Collins and Hartley sent their headers wide.
With Coventry looking shaky at the back and a sign of nerves throughout, Hughes’ side looked the opposite; dominating the opening of the game and looking much more like taking the lead.
But with 33 minutes on the clock, Cody McDonald looked to have fouled Peter Hartley as he picked up the ball just outside of the box. The officials clearly had other ideas as both the referee and his assistant ignore the foul (and a hint of offside) to allow McDonald to play on and the striker pushed into the box to send a low strike into the bottom right corner of Flinders’ net.
Pools, clearly aggrieved by the goal, took a while to settle back into the game and the hosts began to see more of the ball.
As the half-time whistle approached though, Hughes’ men again upped their pressure and, with both Horwood and Poole providing good movement, there were a couple of half-chances before the break.
It was Coventry who came out brightest after the break though and Hughes’ men were forced to defend for the opening minutes.
With the rain pouring down inside The Richoh, the pith became increasingly boggy and even more of a battle for Pools’ preferred passing style.
The hosts broke quickly down the right to play the ball in for the lively Franck Moussa but his final shot was well saved by Flinders.
Pools enjoyed a strong spell of pressure with Poole again heavily involved inside the area but despite a number of players chipping in, the hosts were able to clear.
James Poole arrived with a crucial interception at the other end as he kicked clear a real spot of danger as Coventry pushed forward. Scott Flinders remained focused for Pools, collecting a few shots from the hosts as the second half ticked away.
With Steve Howard already having joined the action, Hughes, who watched the second half from the stands, ordered a double substitution. Andy Monkhouse and Luke James joined the action as Pools showed their intentions for the remainder of the game.
Pools continued to enjoy the majority of the possession as the full-time whistle approached but the ball just would not fall for that crucial goal.
The hosts held on for the win, denying Pools another of more desperately-needed points.
Pools have not scored a goal since the 3-0 victory over Crewe on 26th February and will go into Tuesday night's big match at Oldham Athletic desperate to break that run.
Booked: Humphreys (90)
Att: 10,412 (272 Pools)
Full Time: Coventry City 1 Pools 0
Pools: Flinders, Austin, Hartley,Collins, Horwood, Walton, Sweeney (Howard 71), Humphreys, Franks (Monkhouse 80), Poole, Wyke (James 80)
Subs Not Used: McHugh, Holden, Luscombe, Rutherford
Coventry City: Murphy, Baker, McDonald (Wilson 70), McSheffrey (Bell 88), Jennings, Christie, Edjenguele, Stewart, Moussa (Fleck 78), Martin, Bailey
Dunn, Clarke, Barton, WillisSubs Not Used: