Full-time: Robins 1, Pools 0Koby Arthur’s last-gasp winner handed Cheltenham Town a dramatic victory at Whaddon Road to extend the club’s best start to a league campaign in two decades.
The Robins had created the lion’s share of the chances, with new boy John Marquis hitting the woodwork twice during his first appearance for the club during a promising 30-minute cameo.
The contest though looked set to end in a frustrating stalemate before the Birmingham City loanee popped up with the winner in the final minute to winkle out his side’s fourth win from their opening five matches.
On the stroke of time Troy Brown sent in a long throw, Matt Taylor flicked it on and Arthur nodded it home to leave Cheltenham sitting joint top of League 2 at this early stage of the season.
Boss Mark Yates named an unchanged team, keeping faith with the side that produced the stunning comeback at Tranmere Rovers last weekend.
That meant striker Marquis, who arrived at the club from Millwall during the week, started this one on the bench.
The first half was well contested but largely uneventful in terms of goalscoring chances despite some neat play by both sides.
Cheltenham in particular enjoyed some success down the flanks through Craig Braham-Barrett and Lee Vaughan, pushing on as wing backs in the manager’s preferred 3-5-2 formation.
Matt Richards saw an early 20 yarder comfortably saved while Jordan Wynter and Byron Harrison smashed shots into the bowling green.
At the other end veteran striker Marlon Harewood fluffed an ambitious overhead kick before Charlie Wyke brought about a save by Scott Carson.
A decisive run by Craig Braham-Barrett down the left resulted in a low cross on the half-hour mark, but Scott Flinders parried the loose ball into Jason Taylor, who failed to divert it on target.
Moments later the midfielder turned provider, delivering a ball from the opposite side but Harrison couldn’t meet it at the far post.
With half-time approaching Terry Gornell, sporting a new business-like haircut, twisted away from his marker before shooting inches over the angle of the goal from 14 yards.
Another burst down the left by Braham-Barrett created the first chance of the second period for Wynter, but Flinders dropped well to save.
On-loan Middlesbrough striker Wike threatened throughout for Colin Cooper’s young side and called Carson into save with a flicked header.
Gornell had a fine chance to break his duck 10 minutes after the restart but he thumped his volley well over from six yards.
The Liverpudlian was withdrawn shortly afterwards, handing Marquis his first start since his arrival at the club on Thursday.
Next Elliott was denied by Flinders when he met Richards’ free-kick with a firm header before teeing up Harrison moments later, but the striker’s effort was saved.
Marquis had only been on the pitch for five minutes when he was presented with his chance, and it cannoned back of the right post from the angle.
The loanee was joined by Omari Sterling-James (for Vaughan) and Arthur (Harrison) for the closing stages of the contest as Cheltenham looked to the pair for a similar impact to the one they made on last weekend’s match on the Wirral.
And with seven minutes to play Sterling-James burst down the right and lifted a cross onto the head of Marquis, but Flinders pulled off the save of the match to deny the Millwall man before all the late drama.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (3-5-2): Carson; Brown, M Taylor (c), Elliott; Vaughan (Sterling-James 71), Wynter, J Taylor, Richards, Braham-Barrett; Harrison (Arthur 79), Gornell (Marquis 60). Subs not used: Haworth, Deaman, Hanks, Black.
HARTLEPOOL UNITED (4-3-3): Flinders; Duckworth, Bates (c), Collins, Austin; Franks (James 90), Miller, Walker; Wyke, Harewood (Woods 71), Brobbel (Compton 90). Subs not used: Holden, Richards, Harrison, Dixon (Gk).
REFEREE: C Sarginson
ATTENDANCE: 2,735 (120 from Hartlepool)