THEY didn’t feel good when, one year ago, James Brown’s strike sent them spiralling towards an embarrassing Carling Cup defeat.
Last night Sheffield United returned to the scene of the crime and exacted revenge courtesy of this penalty shoot-out victory over Mick Wadsworth side.
Hartlepool acquitted themselves superbly and, on any other evening, would almost certainly have progressed.
But United, whose defending will cause manager Danny Wilson much cause for concern ahead of Saturday’s encounter with Brentford, survived a huge scare to reach the second round for the first time since 2008.
Fittingly Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, whose combination of power, pace and trickery caused Hartlepool all manner of problems, was responsible for forging Stephen Quinn’s opener but Antony Sweeney deservedly levelled for the hosts during the closing stages.
With a hamstring strain ending his involvement soon after, Hartlepool ploughed-on for the remainder of the contest with only 10 men.
David McAllister should have settled things in the 110th minute but inexplicably failed to hit the target.
However his blushes were spared when having seen Colin Nish, Quinn and Sam Collins miss from the spot, Daniel Philliskirk converted the decisive effort.
Brown, who recently recovered from two major knee injuries, missed the opportunity to try and repeat his feat after sustaining an ankle problem in training.
But Hartlepool, who Wadsworth insists could emerge as dark horses in League One this term, have a new talisman in the shape of Nolberto Solana and, despite claims he could be rested, the veteran Peruvian started in an attack also containing former Rotherham favourite Andy Monkhouse.
Wilson, who steered Hartlepool to promotion in 2007, recounted “many happy memories” of his time in charge at Victoria Park but insisted there was no room for sentiment.
United’s players displayed similar purpose during a furious opening before taking the lead through Quinn.
Mendez-Laing, making his debut following a loan move Wolverhampton Wanderers, should have scored after just three minutes after pouncing on Scott Flinders’ error but screwed agonisingly wide.
However, after Monkhouse had forced Steve Simonsen to make a fine save soon after, he redeemed himself by starting and finishing the 28th minute move which allowed the Irishman to bundle home from close range.
Hartlepool, demonstrating a craft and guile which would not be out of place in the Championship, thought they had claimed what would have been a deserved equaliser when Sam Collins climbed highest on the edge of the six yard but his header hit the crossbar.
With Solano giving Lecsinel Jean-Francois a torrid time on the flank, Adam Boyd and Antony Sweeney also went close before Flinders prevented Richard Cresswell from doubling United’s advantage on the stroke of half time.
Chances were again in plentiful supply at the start of the second period.
Only a fine tackle from Harry Maguire denied Sweeney another sight of goal following another incisive run from deep while Mendez-Laing became the second player to hit the woodwork after unleashing a superb curling effort from the edge of the penalty box.
Nish’s rasping attempt was only just off target as these two teams continued to trade punches and Neill Collins was on hand to stop Monkhouse as Hartlepool continued to press.
But Mendez-Laing replied with another well-timed shot which Flinders did well to parry clear of the onrushing Cresswell.
However, with only 10 minutes of normal time remaining, Sweeney expertly converted substitute Nathan Luscombe’s centre before hobbling off.
Having already made their allotted changes, Hartlepool’s numerical disadvantage should have handed the initiative back to United but Wadsworth’s charges held on to force a shoot-out.
HARTLEPOOL: Flinders, Austin, S Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Solano (Luscombe 68), Liddle (Murray 79), Sweeney, Monkhouse, Nish, Boyd (Poole 64). Not used: Humphreys, Haslam, Baldwin, Rafferty.
UNITED: Simonsen, Lowton, N Collins, Maguire, Jean-Francois, Montgomery, Doyle (Philliskirk 112), Williamson (McAllister 90), Quinn, Mendez-Laing (Slew 64), Cresswell. Not used: Long, Tonne, Conneely, Harriott.
REFEREE: G Altringham (Tyne and Wear)
GOALS: Quinn (28), Sweeney (80)
CAUTIONS: Monk house (37), Nish (85), Jean-Francois (97)
RED CARDS: None