An almighty scramble in the 95th (of 93!) minute was Hartlepool's best effort, but North End grabbed the win in the north east,
North End could have had the lead three minutes before the break when after 41 games and over 3,700 minutes of football the Lilywhites were finally awarded a penalty. Stuart Beavon upended for a clear spot kick.
However, after the wait going back to March for a penalty and October 2011 for an away penalty, Nicky Wroe, returning to the side after injury, stepped up and saw Scott Flinders guess the right way and save his powerful effort.
But the away following weren’t waiting long to celebrate as skipper John Mousinho headed home Stuart Beavon’s corner in first half injury time to give the Lilywhites the lead.
Manager Graham Westley had made six changes to the side that lost at home to Doncaster three days earlier; Nicky Wroe back from injury, Jack King back from illness, Luke Foster, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, Todd Kane and goalkeeper Steve Simonsen the other changes.
Jeffrey Monakana, Paul Huntington joined Lee Holmes, Keith Keane and Scott Laird on the treatment table.
North End started brightly and within the opening five minutes Luke Foster with a good chance, but couldn’t connect after Cansdell-Sherriff’s right sided free kick was nodded down eight yards out.
The home side created their first chance two minutes later when Antony Sweeney raced through, but Bailey Wright made a great block on his shot. The Aussie defender was later to leave the field with concussion, midway through the half.
The home side’s best opportunities were from set pieces, with Evan Horwood twice failing to test the returning Simonsen with free kicks on the edge of the ‘D’, but despite some good delivery into the box the North End keeper did not need to make a save in the first 45 minutes.
With three minutes left in the half North End’s barren run without a penalty finally ended. The last spot kick was awarded against Brentford at Deepdale back in March, when Paul Parry converted, but referee Andy Haines had no hesitation to point straight to the spot when ‘Pools skipper Peter Hartley scythed down Stuart Beavon and after 3,689 minutes (one short of the equivalent of 41 games) the team had an opportunity from 12 yards.
Nicky Wroe was the man who stepped up, and fired powerfully and confidently to goalkeeper Scott Flinders’ left, but he chose the right way and got across to get a strong palm to the ball.
However, the lead was earned in first half injury time. Jack King forced a corner and Stuart Beavon, who had spent an extended time before kick-off practising them in the same corner in front of the North End faithful, curled a deep ball to the back post where skipper John Mousinho headed down and under Flinders to make it 1-0 at the interval.
On 57 minutes a drilled effort from 25 yards by Nicky Wroe was palmed away from the bottom corner by Flinders. From the corner Robertson met Cansdell-Sherriff's deep cross, but saw it blocked for another corner, from which Flinders grabbed at the feet of King at the second attempt.
Joel Byrom replaced the injured David Buchanan on 73 minutes and with his first touch dragged a 20 yard strike just wide of the right hand post.
North End should have had there second clear penalty of the afternoon with two minutes left when Stuart Beavon was again cynically upended in the box, running in from the left byline, but somehow this time the referee waved play on when in the perfect position to see it.
Three minutes of time was added on in the second half, and in the fifth minute of that (yes, fifth!) Steve Simonsen needed to make his only save of the game and what a save it was, to deny the home side in an almighty scramble that saw the Lilywhites record their first win of 2013.
PNE line-up: Simonsen, King, Cansdell-Sherriff, Welsh, Foster, Wright (Robertson, 35), Kane, Mousinho, Wroe (Procter, 86), Beavon, Buchanan (Byrom, 73). Subs not used: Stuckmann, Cummins, Beardsley, Elding.
Hartlepool United line-up: Flinders, Richards, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Walton (Austin, 53), Sweeney, Humphreys, Franks (James, 83), Howard, Wyke (Poole, 75). Subs not used: McHugh, Monkhouse, Baldwin, Holden.
Attendance: 3,829 (318 away fans)
Referee: Mr A Haines