Hartlepool 0-1 Preston
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."