Pools put in a really poor display at The Northern Gas and Power Stadium and were punished by Cambridge United.
Hignett’s side made it too easy for the visitors as they scored five second-half goals to take victory on a really disappointing afternoon.
Pools had made a positive start to the game, with a new formation encouraging a more attacking approach from Hignett’s side.
Nicky Deverdics sent a cross in from the left, which picked out Paynter but his flicked header was held by Will Norris.
Deverdics, who is the biggest threat from deadballs for Pools, put a lovely freekick in from the left that saw Norris fumbling at the far post under pressure from Paynter and Nsiala, and the keeper carried the ball out for a corner.
Toto Nsiala rose highest to win it in the air from the corner but he sent his header over the bar.
Pools saw the majority of the ball in the first half but Cambridge looked a real threat on the break – with former Pools loanee Brad Halliday a catalyst for most of these breaks.
Trevor Carson was called on in the 19th minute to make his first save of the game and he got down solidly to save well from Luke Berry who tried a strike from distance.
Pools won another corner which was again sent in by Deverdics and again met by Nsiala; the big defender knocked it down for Josh Laurent who saw his effort from close range kicked off the line and clear.
Berry got in a good position for the visitors just after the half-hour mark but, with only Carson to bear, the Cambridge forward sent the ball high over the bar.
Piero Mingoia was next up for Cambridge as they pushed to open the scoring but his curling ball in from the right scraped the far post as it went just wide of goal.
Padraig Amond made up for a slip but chasing in and curling a cross in from the right but that was headed over the bar by Leon Legge under pressure from Paynter.
And for all of Pools’ possession and attack in this first half, there wasn’t enough to really test Norris in the Cambridge goal and it was in fact the visitors who looked the more like scoring.
Pools gave their opponents a helping hand just before the break when Toto Nsiala made a clumsy challenge on Berry inside the box, handing them a penalty kick.
Berry stepped up to take the spotkick himself only to be denied by Carson who pulled off a great save to deny the goal.
Pools went in all square at half time but that didn’t last long into the second half.
After a quiet start, it was Cambridge who took hold of the game; Trevor Carson made another brilliant save to block the first shot in from the visitors, before Matthew Bates threw his body in the way of the next.
But when James Dunne stepped up to smash in the third effort in from the edge of the box, there was no one in the way and his strike sailed through the area and into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
It was 2-0 just minutes later as Uche Ikpeazu did well down the right before playing it in for Berry who struck the back of the net.
Pools had a quick chance to pull one back after a nice bit of play, which was finished off with a neat cross in from Hawkins on the right to find Amond who sent his effort over the bar.
The third goal came on 65 minutes as a corner from the right picked out Leon Legge rising highest and he was allowed the space to head home to make it 3-0.
Pools looked so disorganised at the back following the first goal and Cambridge took full advantage, looking like scoring with every attack.
Ikpeazu was given the space to collect a cross in from Berry and he made it 4-0, shaking off the defender to put the ball over the line.
Max Clark was again given too much space by Pools late in the game as he made it 5-0 to round off a horrible afternoon.
Full Time: Pools 0 Cambridge United 5
Attendance: 3261 (205 Cambridge United)
Booked: Nsiala (46)
Pools: Carson, Donnelly, Bates, Nsiala (Oates 71), Carroll, Laurent, Hawkins, Featherstone (Woods 81), Deverdics (Alessandra 59), Amond, Paynter.
Subs Not Used: Bartlett, Carroll, Harrison, Walker.
Cambridge United: Norris, Taylor, Dunne, Roberts, Legge, Mingoia (Williamson 82), Berry, Maris (Dunk 46), Newton (Clark 72), Ikpeazu, Halliday.
Subs Not Used: Gregory, Adams, Dallison.