Neil Mellor's 22-yard strike earned Preston North End a first win in 10 league games and consigned Hartlepool to a seventh successive home defeat.
Mellor curled home the winner in the first half when he ran in from the left and fired home into the far corner.
But the hosts will feel unfortunate as they created the better chances.
North End goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann denied Nolberto Solano and kept out two fine James Poole shots while Pools also had a strong penalty shout waved away.
The hosts started brightly and had a couple of half chances before they claimed a penalty when Peter Hartley's header seemed to be blocked by Jamie McCombe's arm.
Referee Jock Waugh ignored the home protests and Mellor's superb long-range shot soon increased the home side's frustration.
Pools, who have now lost their last seven home games at Victoria Park in all competitions, continued to press after the break but could not find a way past the impressive Stuckmann.
The German keeper made a fine save when he dived to his right to keep out Poole's shot after good work by Adam Boyd.
And Stuckmann made an even better stop soon after, pulling off a wonderful fingertip save to prevent Poole's fine strike nestling in the bottom corner.
Poole also sent a superb 30-yard free-kick narrowly wide, but the visitors held on with relative comfort in the final 20 minutes to close out a first victory since the late September win over Wycombe Wanderers .
VIEWS FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Hartlepool head coach Mick Wadsworth told BBC Tees:
"I couldn't see the incident from my side of the pitch, but the reaction of my players and the crowd was overwhelmingly pointing to the opinion it was a penalty.
"Some of the people in the press box have also said they thought it was a penalty.
"There's not a great deal we can do about it though. We never seem to be able to get our necks in front in the race."
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Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee signals the end of the game.90:00 +0:18
Free kick awarded for a foul by Nathan Doyle on Gary Liddle. The free kick is swung in left-footed by Evan Horwood, save made by Thorsten Stuckmann.89:29 Booking
Booking Paul Coutts receives a yellow card.89:08
Paul Coutts gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Peter Hartley. Free kick taken by Scott Flinders.88:44
Gary Liddle sends in a cross, Thorsten Stuckmann makes a save.87:44
The assistant referee signals for offside against Jonathan Forte. Indirect free kick taken by Neil Austin.87:15
The official flags Jonathan Forte offside. Scott Flinders takes the indirect free kick.85:50
Corner taken by Paul Coutts from the right by-line.84:48 Substitution
Substitution Jamie Proctor leaves the field to be replaced by Jonathan Forte.83:28 Substitution
Substitution Ritchie Humphreys comes on in place of Adam Boyd.83:28 Booking
Booking David Gray is given a yellow card.83:11
Unfair challenge on Andy Monkhouse by David Gray results in a free kick. Evan Horwood restarts play with the free kick.81:56
The referee gives a free kick against Jamie Proctor for handball. Free kick crossed left-footed by Evan Horwood, clearance made by Nathan Doyle.81:17
A cross is delivered by Danny Mayor.80:16
Free kick awarded for a foul by Neil Mellor on Gary Liddle. Direct free kick taken by Neil Austin.79:26
Paul Coutts sends in a cross.78:22 Booking
Booking Nathan Doyle shown a yellow card.76:05
Peter Hartley produces a drilled left-footed shot from 35 yards and missed to the left of the target.75:52
The ball is sent over by Nathan Luscombe, clearance made by Jamie McCombe.74:03
Adam Boyd takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Blocked by Jamie McCombe.
Centre by Danny Mayor.72:06
Gary Liddle concedes a free kick for a foul on Nathan Doyle. Direct free kick taken by Barry Nicholson.68:30
Barry Nicholson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on James Poole. Neil Austin restarts play with the free kick.66:17
Unfair challenge on Gary Liddle by Barry Nicholson results in a free kick. Nathan Luscombe takes the indirect free kick, Evan Horwood takes a shot. Craig Morgan gets a block in.65:52
Peter Hartley fouled by Jamie Proctor, the ref awards a free kick. Evan Horwood takes the free kick.63:38
Nathan Doyle challenges James Poole unfairly and gives away a free kick. James Poole has a direct shot on goal from the free kick.61:46
Foul by Neil Austin on Jamie Proctor, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Paul Parry.61:08
Nathan Luscombe crosses the ball, save by Thorsten Stuckmann.60:39
Corner taken left-footed by Evan Horwood from the right by-line, Craig Morgan makes a clearance.60:24
Shot from 20 yards from James Poole. Save made by Thorsten Stuckmann.60:02
Paul Coutts sends in a cross.58:19
Nathan Luscombe produces a cross.57:18 Substitution
Substitution Nolberto Solano leaves the field to be replaced by Nathan Luscombe.57:18 Substitution
Substitution Gary Liddle comes on in place of Paul Murray.56:45
Danny Mayor takes a shot. Save by Scott Flinders.55:43
Paul Coutts produces a right-footed shot from long range which goes wide right of the target.55:08
Danny Mayor is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Scott Flinders restarts play with the free kick.53:58
The ball is crossed by Paul Parry, clearance made by Neil Austin. Corner taken by Barry Nicholson from the left by-line played to the near post, clearance by Neil Austin.52:48
Foul by Jamie Proctor on Stephen Wright, free kick awarded. Scott Flinders takes the direct free kick.51:51
The ball is delivered by Jamie Proctor, comfortable save by Scott Flinders.49:44
Neil Mellor produces a drilled left-footed shot from 18 yards. Scott Flinders makes a save.49:36
The ball is crossed by Paul Coutts, Stephen Wright manages to make a clearance.45:51
Free kick awarded for a foul by Peter Hartley on Neil Mellor. David Gray takes the direct free kick.45:01
The referee gets the second half started.45:00 +1:10 Half time
Half Time The players leave the pitch at half time.42:54
Jamie McCombe concedes a free kick for a foul on James Poole. Nolberto Solano produces a strike on goal direct from the free kick, save made by Thorsten Stuckmann.42:26
James Poole takes a shot. Save by Thorsten Stuckmann.41:47
Effort from 12 yards by Antony Sweeney. Save made by Thorsten Stuckmann.39:53
Shot by Neil Austin from outside the area goes high over the crossbar.39:47
The ball is crossed by Evan Horwood, Jamie McCombe manages to make a clearance.36:22
David Gray gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on James Poole. Free kick crossed by Nolberto Solano, Craig Morgan makes a clearance.33:53
Nolberto Solano is caught offside. Thorsten Stuckmann takes the free kick.33:31
The ball is crossed by Nolberto Solano, Thorsten Stuckmann makes a comfortable save.31:59
Foul by Neil Austin on Neil Mellor, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Barry Nicholson.31:10
Neil Mellor takes a shot. Save by Scott Flinders.30:53
Inswinging corner taken by Evan Horwood from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance by Nathan Doyle.30:33
The ball is delivered by Andy Monkhouse, Nolberto Solano takes a shot. Save by Thorsten Stuckmann.27:57
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Nolberto Solano from the left by-line, save by Thorsten Stuckmann.25:34
Foul by Stephen Wright on Danny Mayor, free kick awarded. Paul Parry restarts play with the free kick.23:59
Nathan Doyle gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on James Poole. Neil Austin takes the direct free kick.22:23
Foul by Jamie McCombe on James Poole, free kick awarded. Shot on goal comes in from Nolberto Solano from the free kick, Paul Coutts gets a block in.21:18
The assist for the goal came from Barry Nicholson.21:18 Goal scored
Goal! - Neil Mellor - Hartlepool 0 - 1 Preston Neil Mellor finds the net with a goal from just outside the box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Hartlepool 0-1 Preston.19:02
Neil Austin gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Danny Mayor. Barry Nicholson crosses the ball from the free kick right-footed from left wing, clearance made by Stephen Wright.17:55
Inswinging corner taken by Evan Horwood.16:45
Inswinging corner taken by Evan Horwood.11:51
Centre by Andy Monkhouse, Antony Sweeney has a header from inside the six-yard box and clears the crossbar.9:53
Corner taken left-footed by Paul Parry from the right by-line, Headed effort from close range by Craig Morgan goes wide left of the target.9:46
Paul Coutts crosses the ball, clearance made by Neil Austin.9:32
The ball is sent over by Paul Coutts, Peter Hartley manages to make a clearance.9:10
The ball is crossed by Nolberto Solano, Jamie McCombe manages to make a clearance.7:56
Corner from the right by-line taken by Evan Horwood, Header from deep inside the penalty area by Peter Hartley goes harmlessly over the crossbar.6:02
Neil Austin fouled by Jamie Proctor, the ref awards a free kick. Neil Austin takes the free kick.4:37
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Adam Boyd by Jamie McCombe. Direct free kick taken by Neil Austin.3:41
David Gray crosses the ball, Stephen Wright makes a clearance. Inswinging corner taken by Barry Nicholson from the left by-line, Jamie McCombe takes a shot. Stephen Wright gets a block in.1:42
Adam Boyd takes a shot. Blocked by Craig Morgan.1:15
Shot by Paul Coutts from 18 yards. Save by Scott Flinders.1:07
The ball is crossed by Danny Mayor, save made by Scott Flinders.0:00
The referee gets the game underway.
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