Delighted Colchester boss Matt Bloomfield praised the character of his side as the U’s moved eight points clear of the Sky Bet League Two relegation zone.
They needed a scrambled 88th-minute Alex Newby winner to see off struggling Pools, who thought they had salvaged a late point.
And, after recording a fourth successive away win – the first time Colchester have managed that in 25 years – Bloomfield admitted: “It was some late drama – I’m really pleased to come away with a win from a game not pleasing on the eye.
“We scored early and struggled to get into the flow. Scoring early changes the game a bit, they came and attacked us and we stood firm for a long time. We showed our spirit to come back and score a winner later.
“I knew it was going to be a tough game against a good team at home. We felt we were doing OK for the month, but they are as well.”
Pools beat Rochdale at home seven days earlier, but never looked like getting the better of the U’s, who took the lead in the fifth minute.
A long, curling free-kick from Arthur Reid was not dealt with by a frigid Pools back five and, as the ball bounced around, centre-half Fiacre Kelleher thumped in from close range for his second goal in as many games.
Pools nabbed an unlikely leveller through Jamie Sterry in the 83rd minute, before some late drama as Newby scrambled the ball over the line after a fine double Ben Killip save.
Bloomfield added: “Scoring so early meant we didn’t get on the front foot. We kind of sat off and protected something. By the time Hartlepool scored, we couldn’t get out of that momentum of the game, which we tried to do with changes and substitutions.
“They scored from a corner and I felt the save which led to the corner was going to see us over the line. They scored and we stuck at it.”
Pools stay second bottom and boss Keith Curle said: “It’s disappointing. We didn’t start well by giving the opposition a foot in the game. It rocked us.
“We stepped up and played with some intensity and levelled. If anyone felt anyone would get a winner it was us.
“Then we kick ourselves in the foot. Our decision-making was wrong.
“We give players roles and responsibilities in training on Thursday and Friday and they don’t do it five minutes into a game. We have to improve the process and get the message across better.
“If you are told to mark someone, then mark them. It’s about accountability and responsibility.”
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