BATTLING Hartlepool United are tonight out of the EFL’s bottom two after a 1-1 draw with Stevenage at the Suit Direct Stadium.
Danny Rose gave the promotion-chasers a first-half lead but skipper Nicky Featherstone levelled with a precise finish 39 seconds after the break.
Goodness knows how it stayed at 1-1 with both sides having gilt-edged chances in a breathtaking second half.
The draw was enough to take Pools, now unbeaten in eight matches under John Askey, a point above Crawley who were thumped 4-0 at Barrow.
Askey was forced into changing his winning line-up, with Jamie Sterry ruled out with a groin problem which forced him off at Grimsby.
Dan Dodds moved to right wingback with Taylor Foran starting in defence alongside Euan Murray and Edon Pruti.
It was a nervy start from the home side, with Stevenage almost ahead in the third minute when Jamie Reid ’s neat shot was deflected for a corner off Pruti.
Pools had a couple of promising attacks including one when a teasing low David Ferguson cross eluded both Connor Jennings and Josh Umerah.
But it was promotion-chasing Borough who were the superior side and they did not give Pools a moment’s peace.
The determined hosts did well to keep the scoreline blank, but they were unlocked in the 215th minute.
Luther Wildin floated in a cross from the right, which was met by the head of Rose who skilfully guided the ball into Stolarczyk’s far corner.
It had to be Rose, didn’t it, having scored the controversial late winner in the contest between the clubs at Broadhall Way earlier in the season.
Stevenage’s dominance forced Askey into a change of formation, introducing Sylla for Foran with Pools going to a flat back four.
The match, already lively, went up in temperature five minutes before the break when Stolarczyk came racing out of his area to intercept a Borough counter attack and got to the ball before Alex Gilbey.
The Stevenage midfielder appealed for handball from the keeper, but referee Paul Howard waved play on.
It incensed Borough boss Steve Evans in the away technical area, prompting Mr Howard to speak to the Scot.
If Evans was upset at that, a penny for his thoughts as his side conceded in the first minute of the second half.
Only 39 seconds had gone when, with sublime skill, Featherstone passed the ball into the Borough keeper's bottom left corner.
Stevenage sloppily lost possession, allowing Umerah to get forward and find Dan Kemp who teed up the skipper.
Pools should have gone ahead in the 67th minute when Murray somehow skied one over the bar from close range in a goalmouth scramble from a corner when it looked easier to score.
There was a scare moments later at the other end but Callum Cooke hacked clear and, as Stevenage’s momentum grew, Pruti made a great clearing header.
Askey threw on Wes McDonald and then Tom Crawford and Ollie Finney and a McDonald-inspired attack almost got in Finney but the sub could not get a shot off.
Both sides went for it late in a thrilling finale with keeper Lo-Tutala making a super diving save from Crawford’s shot..
In the fifth minute of added time, Umerah set up Finney but the hero of the win over Swindon fluffed his lines.
More drama was to follow as McDonald swept forward a minute later with a ton of players in support.
But the winger lost possession, allowing Stevenage to break and the visitors looked set to snatch the points with the last kick of the match but Ferguson cleared off the line from sub Jake Taylor.
Pools: Stolarczyk; Foran, Murray, Pruti; Dodds, Featherstone, Cooke (Finney 83), Kemp (Crawford 83), Ferguson; Jennings, Umerah
Subs (not used): Killip, Kiernan, Grey
Goal: Featherstone 46
Stevenage: Lo-Tutala; Sweeney, Vancooten (Taylor 55), Piergianni; Wildin, Bostwick (Caskey 74), Gilbey, Clark; Rose, Reid (Horgan 89), Roberts.
Subs (not used): Przybek, Smith, Campbell, Norris
Goal: Rose 25
Booked: Vancooten 43, Gilbey 57, Caskey 90
Referee: Paul Howard
Att: 5,687 (away 171)