Hartlepool manager John Hughes hailed his side's rearguard action after a strike from Neil Austin ensured Pools live to fight another day in League One.

Austin's goal after 10 minutes was enough for victory in a game Hartlepool simply had to win to avoid the drop. Hughes still faces mission impossible to keep Pools up but he described his players as '11 heroes' after they hung on at play-off chasing Tranmere.

"It was a great win in terms of effort and commitment," said Hughes. "It was a rearguard action but the penalty gave us something to hang onto and we certainly did that. There were 11 heroes on the pitch, plus the substitutes, and we were just happy to see the ball hit the back of the net.

"We showed plenty of desire and that's what it is all about. We gave up a lot of territory and tried to hit them on the counter attack but there is more than one way to win a football match.

"There was plenty of pride evident in our performance and it was such a crucial game. We showed courage and we had to want it more - it was critical. We hung on in there and all credit to the boys. We can play better football but it was a must-win cup final if you like and the players certainly came up with the goods."

Tranmere's temperatures were raised when referee Lee Collins pointed to the penalty spot after ruling that Ben Gibson had held Sam Collins in the box. Rovers fans thought justice had been done when Owain Fon Williams kept out Simon Walton's penalty but Austin pounced to slide home the rebound.

Tranmere manager Ronnie Moore said: "There is no doubt it is disappointing. The penalty given to Hartlepool was a ridiculous decision. But we were asleep on the edge of the box when the ball came back out and they have stuck away the rebound.

"On an attacking front we were poor. We had a lot of possession but we didn't show enough quality because we should have put them to the sword. It was a massive game but we didn't have the guile to break Hartlepool down.

"At the start of the season we were almost unplayable but at the moment I don't know where our next goal is coming from. We are a wreck as a team right now compared to the fluency we showed earlier in the season.

"Someone has to light the blue touch paper because we didn't test Hartlepool enough. We went out of the game with a whimper and it has to mean more to the players. It hurts. I am angry because I can see what we have thrown away. We are playing like we are a bottom-four team."