Ten-man Morecambe lost for the 22nd time this season as their miserable 2016 continued with a humbling defeat to Hartlepool at the Globe Arena on Saturday.
The visitors threatened to run riot early on with Michael Woods and Nathan Thomas putting them two up inside six minutes.
Alex Kenyon’s goal pegged Pools back on 25 minutes but Thomas’ second shortly after half-time put Craig Hignett’s side back in command.
Victory was all but sealed 15 minutes from time when goalkeeper Barry Roche was sent off for bringing down Brad Walker with Luke James firing the penalty past stand-in stopper Kenyon.
There was still time for two late goals, Tom Barkhuizen pulling a goal back for the hosts before Rhys Oates restored the three-goal advantage two minutes from time.
Hartlepool were in front with the game’s first real attack on three minutes.
The impressive Thomas drove at The Shrimps’ defence and saw a deflected shot expertly kept out by Roche at full stretch only for Woods to volley in the rebound from 12 yards.
It was two after just six minutes as Thomas got his first goal, the former Mansfield man breezing in on the left side of the area past Shaun Beeley with his goal-bound shot hitting Ryan Edwards on its way into the back of the net.
Things nearly went from bad to worse on 12 minutes with Thomas pouncing on a slack Tom Barkhuizen pass and breaking into the area only to drag his shot wide when in one-on-one with Roche.
It was game on after 25 minutes though as Morecambe pulled a goal back.
Kevin Ellison’s blocked shot broke for Kenyon free in the area who lashed a left-foot shot beyond Trevor Carson to reduce the arrears to one.
Despite The Shrimps’ lifeline Hartlepool were still the better side in an open and entertaining game, Jake Gray blazing over from the edge of the area after profiting on a Luke Conlan slip.
Morecambe’s top goal scorer Shaun Miller also went close before the interval but saw a tame shot held by Carson as he struggled to get the ball out of his feet.
The next goal was always going to be crucial and it was Thomas’ quality that saw Hartlepool cement their advantage five minutes after the interval.
Beating three Morecambe challenges as he broke across the face of the area the wide man fired an unstoppable right-foot finish across Roche and in.
The Shrimps, with a mountain to climb for the second time in the game, came close to a second on the hour mark with Adam Jackson’s sliced clearance coming back off the top of the bar.
Substitute Cole Stockton then nearly capped his impressive introduction with a goal but headed fellow replacement Aaron McGowan’s cross narrowly wide on 65 minutes.
It was Hartlepool who killed the game off with the goal’s fifth goal on 75 minutes.
Walker raced clear and rounded Roche before being brought down with referee Carl Boyeson showing the Morecambe number one his second red card in five games.
With Kieran O’Hara injured and The Shrimps without a substitute stopper Kenyon was called upon to don the gloves, James stepping up and sending the midfielder the wrong way.
The game was over as a contest but the hosts kept battling and had their second goal on 86 minutes, Barkhuizen profiting on some slack Pools defending to race clear and score his second in two games.
Hartlepool weren’t done themselves though with James breaking in behind two minutes from time and pulling the ball back for Oates to make it five and complete another wretched afternoon for Morecambe.
Morecambe: Roche, Beeley, Parrish, Edwards, Conlan (McGowan 46), Kenyon, Goodall, Barkhuizen, Molyneux (Stockton 55), Ellison, Miller (Oliver 79). Subs not used: Devitt, Mullin, Bailey, Doyle.
Booked: Molyneux, Barkhuizen. Red card: Roche
Hartlepool: Carson, Magnay (capt), Jackson, Jones, Carroll, Featherstone, Woods (Walker 69), Hawkins, Thomas (Oates 69), Gray (Laurent 63), James. Subs not used: Bartlett, Bingham, Richards, Duckworth.
Booked: Carroll, James
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Attendance: 2,005 (727 away)