Pools’ nine game unbeaten run was brought to an end at Salford City on Tuesday night as three second half goals secured victory for the hosts.
An even contest at The Peninsula Stadium meant that the first goal was always likely to be crucial and it was the home side who grabbed it just after the hour before turning the screw on Pools.
Matthew Bates made one enforced change to his starting eleven with Peter Kioso suspended – Conor Newton was drafted in to fill his role at right wing-back.
The game started at a reasonable tempo and both sides attempted to knock the ball around in the opening stages without too much being created in way of clear-cut opportunities.
Pools suffered a blow just after the quarter-hour mark when Niko Muir was forced off after being kicked on the ankle, Marcus Dinanga introduced from the bench to partner Luke James.
The first real moment of danger arrived when the skilful Tom Walker drove in to space thirty yards out and let fly with a dipping shot which was tipped on to the cross bar brilliantly by Scott Loach.
City continued to press and Adam Rooney got across his man at the front post to meet Danny Lloyd’s cross from the left but his header was held by Loach.
Pools’ best opening came when Liam Noble slipped the ball in behind down the right for Newton and his cut-back found the arriving Paddy McLaughlin eight yards out but he sent his shot too high.
Wing man Walker then crashed the ball against the woodwork for a second time, dancing in from the right hand side before sending a stinging effort off the bar.
Carl Magnay tried his luck from long-range just before the break but his shot through a crowded penalty area was grabbed by keeper Chris Neal at the second attempt.
Pools began the second half on the front foot and came close to stealing the lead when Dinanga turned smartly on the edge of the box but his powerful left-foot drive was inches over.
On 63 minutes the pivotal moment arrived. City chased a lost cause on the right wing and the ball was shovelled back in to the box to the far post where Lloyd ghosted in unchallenged to head past Loach from point-blank range.
It could have been two for Salford and two for Lloyd when he escaped through on goal two minutes later only to be denied by Loach – but Rooney met the resultant left-wing corner with a forceful header to double the hosts’ lead.
And it was game over on 73 minutes when a slick Salford counter-attack saw a low ball reach Walker at the far post despite the best attempts of Magnay and he knocked it home from close range for 3-0.
To their credit, Pools continued to pass the ball and press, coming close to grabbing a consolation through Liam Noble’s drive from the edge of the area, while the midfielder also sent a free-kick just wide with the last kick of the game.
Full Time: Salford City 3 Pools 0
Attendance: 2420 (558 Pools)
Salford City: Neal, Wiseman, Touray, Shelton, Walker (Hogan 78), Piergianni, Whitehead, Pond, Lloyd (Maynard 87), Rooney (Rodney 87), Gaffney.
Subs Not Used: Crocombe, Haughton.
Pools: Loach, Magnay, Davies, Anderson, Kitching, Newton (Woods 72), Featherstone, Noble, McLaughlin, Muir (Dinanga 19), James.
Subs Not Used: Richardson, Hawkins, Hawkes.