A stunning finish by substitute Danny Mayor gave Preston North End victory over Hartlepool United at Deepdale on Tuesday night.
The winger cut inside from the left-wing and unleashed a 25-yard shot which flew into the top corner.
Mayor’s 76th minute strike was enough to give Graham Westley his first win in charge of North End at the fourth time of asking.
Until that moment of magic, it looked like the St Valentine’s Day clash was heading for an uninspiring stalemate.
Hartlepool had been the more threatening side in the first half, and it needed a couple of top drawer saves from Thortsen Stuckmann to keep them out.
Stuckmann produced another fine save right at the death, keeping out a shot from Colin Nish when the Pools substitute was clean through.
In the scramble that followed, Nish saw a second effort cleared off the line by Nicky Hunt, with Andy Monkhouse then hitting the bar.
North End’s side had a very new look to it, Westley starting with seven of his transfer window signings, with the other two on the bench.
Graham Cummins, Hunt and Chris Robertson came in for their debuts which had been delayed by the two recent postponements.
Alex Marrow made his home debut after playing at Yeovil 18 days earlier, while Andy Procter, Jamie McAllister and Chris Holroyd made their fourth appearances for North End.
Procter was handed the captain’s armband, having been skipper at his former club Accrington Stanley.
Among the substitutes were newcomers Rhys Murphy and Aaron Brown, centre-half Brown wearing the No.50 shirt - the highest squad number in PNE’s history.
A more familiar face returning to the side was Barry Nicholson, the Scotsman handed an attacking midfield role after three games on the bench.
In the early exchanges, a shot at the far post from Cummins hit a defender and looped into the gloves of keeper Scott Flinders.
During a good spell of pressure from the visitors, James Brown sent a low shot from 25 yards just wide of the target after he’d stolen possession from Procter.
The same player forced a diving save out of Stuckmann when he tried his luck with an effort with the outside of his boot.
Pools was then inches away from taking a 15th minute lead, teenager Luke James cutting inside from the right and curling a low shot just wide of the far post.
Stuckmann came to North End’s rescue as they remained pinned back, sticking out a foot to superbly keep out Peter Sweeney’s shot.
A long distance effort from Hunt provided some respite for the hosts, the right-back’s shot just clearing the bar.
But the visitors got back on the front foot again, with Sweeney thumping a header wide and later seeing a shot deflect off Marrow and fly behind for a corner.
North End went for a change of system within nine minutes of the re-start, Mayor replacing Nicholson.
That allowed Holroyd to switch inside from the right-wing and give Cummins some company up front.
Robertson conceded a free-kick just a few yards outside the box when he gave Brown a shove in the back, thankfully Evan Horwood lifted the resulting set-piece over the wall and over the bar.
In the 67th minute, Murphy came on for his debut as Westley looked for a way to break the deadlock.
The Arsenal loanee joined Cummins up front, Holroyd going back to the right after his brief spell down the middle.
Hartlepool went close after 73 minutes, a corner from the right finding its way through to skipper Sam Collins who stabbed a close-range effort straight at Stuckmann.
It always looked like it was going to take something out of the ordinary to break the stalemate, and that moment arrived in the 76th minute.
Mayor collected possession on the left-wing, cut inside before unleashing a beauty of a right-foot shot which rocketed into the far top corner.
Somehow, North End kept hold of their lead in an amazing treble chance which fell the visitors’ way in the 89th minute.
Substitute Nish looked offside as he collected a ball played over the top of the back four.
Stuckmann stood up tall and pushed away his shot, the rebound falling back to Nish who got away another effort which Hunt got back to scoop off the line.
This time the ball found its way to Monkhouse whose shot came back off the bar before Sweeney shot wide.
PNE: Stuckman, Hunt, Robertson, Marrow, McAllister (Murphy 67, McLaughlin 90), Procter, Barton, Holroyd, Nicholson (Mayor 54), Parry, Cummins. Subs: Brown, Arestidou.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Liddle, Murray (Haslam 75), Sweeney, Brown (Nish 75), James, Monkhouse. Subs: Humphreys, Nish, Haslam, Baldwin, Rafferty.
Referee: Tony Bates (Stafford)