SURELY no-one can have any doubts about Hartlepool United's promotion credentials now.

If a club record-breaking 18 games without defeat isn't enough to convince, the way they took the game to top-four rivals Brighton must be enough to persuade even the most hardened and envious of mockers.

Chris Turner knew it was a game his side had to win if they were to catch the visitors, whose ten point lead - barring a major collapse - is likely to be too far a gap to bridge.

But on this display, that was every bit as emphatic as the performance at Darlington a week earlier, Pool won't give up the top-three ghost.

You would struggle to see a better spectacle in the Third Division than this encounter between two teams on top of their game - Brighton permanent residents in the top three this season, Pool doing everything they can to get in there.

After Kevin Henderson levelled proceedings at 2-2, Brighton were more than happy to take a point after Pool took the initiative. And after extending the club record to 18 unbeaten games, now they have set another in the process as no Pool side has ever drawn five successive games.

And while there might be the odd sceptic still to be convinced, there is no doubting the team believes the holy grail of promotion can be reached. The spirit and determination is there in abundance. Lesser Pool teams would have - and certainly have in the past - caved in after twice going behind to a strong side like Brighton, but not this one.

"It was an excellent team performance,'' beamed Turner. "We created a lot of chances and showed a lot of team spirit and character - I couldn't ask for any more. I said that they are one of the strongest sides in the division and we more than matched them.

"We showed that we are a better team now than when we played them earlier in the season. They took a lot of pressure but it is the sign of a good team that they didn't crumble.

"The run keeps on going but the last two games are games that could easily have been defeats. Other teams will have been looking at it thinking Darlington could win because it was a derby game and then Brighton who are flying, but the way we're playing it never happened.

"We have nine games left and if we keep these standards up then we will win more than we lose.''

Or if they come across keepers like Andy Collett and Michel Kuipers every week they might draw more than they lose.

At Darlington, Collett prevented Pool from earning a deserved three points, on Saturday it was Kuipers turn to make saves he wasn't entitled to make.

Anth Lormor met a cross from the returning Paul Stephenson and Kuipers spread his body across goal to keep the ball out. Five minutes later and the keeper did similar to again stop Lormor.

And just like at Darlington, Pool fell behind after creating the better openings. This time a short corner was played to the unmarked Richard Carpenter and he drilled the ball first-time into the net.

It didn't take long for Pool to level after the restart. Stephenson, back again after breaking his wrist, sent in a near-post corner and Lormor towered above everyone to head home.

Brighton took the lead when Micky Barron was adjudged to have handled Bobby Zamora's cross, and from the spot the million-pound rated striker netted.

Pool were angry at the decision, but Turner had no complaints. It was the sort of decision that causes uproar when it goes against, but if it goes in your favour no-one would argue.

Seconds later and Pool were level again. Straight from the kick-off, sharp-shooter Henderson got on the end of Lormor's flick-on, held off a pack of chasing defenders and rolled the ball home.

From then on in, the game was played mainly in Brighton's half, with the visitors restricted to breakaways. Zamora was shackled by the Pool defence in which James Sharp improves by the game.

He is the first to admit he made a shaky start to his Pool career, but on current form it's hard to believe he came from the Jewson Wessex League last summer.

Cool and composed throughout, one raking ball found Henderson some 50 yards away. The last time anyone saw passes of that nature at Victoria Park they were made by Norwegian international Jan Ove Pedersen.

Sam Shilton broke into the area at speed, but instead of going down under challenge, he stayed on his feet and the chance of a penalty was missed.

Visiting boss Micky Adams was quick to pay tribute to Pool - but believes Turner's side have too much to do.

"One point was a fair reflection. There was two good sides out there,'' he said. "It would have been a travesty if one side had lost the game.

"We wanted to end their unbeaten run but it was tough because they are a good team. We are now in a very good position, but I'm not going to say we have done this or done that because there is still some way to go.'