A victory to celebrate after 90 minutes back in the English Football League following an absence of 1,554 days.

Little wonder Hartlepool United’s fans and players didn’t want to leave Victoria Park.

It hasn’t been like that for years. Due to Covid-19, last season’s surge to the play-offs and promotion from the National League could not see Pools’ home benefit from that kind of atmosphere.

There was the Great Escape under Ronnie Moore in 2015, but this was different. Queues outside the ground for season tickets before kick-off, the club shop sold out of home shirts on the eve of the game and more than 5,000 Hartlepool fans inside.

There was joy that the National League years were over, excitement at watching the team for the first time since the play-off final at Bristol and hope. Hope that Dave Challinor’s side could get life in League Two off to the perfect start – and they did.

Gavan Holohan’s dramatic and delightful half volley, after chesting down substitute debutant Tyler Burey’s cross in the area, shaved the surface to beat Crawley Town’s goalkeeper Glen Morris in his bottom left corner with two minutes left.

The noise reached new levels and a few minutes later the final whistle marked the ideal outcome to begin the new season at the higher level.

“It’s unreal,” said Holohan. “The Aldershot game last season, the first game when there were no fans there, we had a buzz after the game in the dressing room - not like that.

“It was unbelievable to have them back out there. You can’t replicate that. That was really special out there.

“It was important to get off to a good start. There is more to come from us and we have to maintain that level of performance. When the place is bouncing like that I wouldn’t like to be an opposition player.”

Hartlepool deserved the win. They created the better chances over the course of the 90 minutes, with summer recruit Olufela Olomola, who showed a few nice touches but gave the ball away a few times, almost putting Hartlepool in front after ten seconds.

David Ferguson thought he had curled in a low effort a few minutes later from the edge of the area and Holohan had a back post volley almost turned in by Neill Byrne at the back post.

Those were all in the first half and Burey went close with his outstretched boot when he met Luke Molyneux’s low delivery in the latter stages. In the end, though, Hartlepool’s greater creativity was rewarded with Holohan’s winner.

The challenge is now to capitalise on the buzz around the club and build on the three points that were delivered on the opening weekend by Challinor’s men.

Hartlepool need to find a new striker from somewhere, arguably even two, to get on the end of the sort crosses that the excellent Jamie Sterry sent over. Perhaps the biggest signing of all, though, will be Challinor himself.

He has entered into the final year of his contract and if results keep arriving like this first one he has overseen in the Football League – on the back of last season’s promotion – then there will be suitors. That’s how football works.

Hartlepool chairman Raj Singh wants him tied down to a new deal. In Saturday’s matchday programme, Singh commented: “Talks have been ongoing for a few weeks, and we have made Dave an increased offer a couple of weeks ago which we think is fair for this league and again, taking into consideration his achievements of last season.”

But there is clearly a difference of opinion between the two. Challinor is happy at Hartlepool, but he is in no rush to sign new terms.

The Pools boss said: “It’s easy to put things in programmes and things like that. I noticed (Singh) used the word fair but fair is very subjective, fair to one person may be derisory to another.

“If fair is significantly lower than the average wage of a League Two manager then is it fair? Of course, there is a solution to it. Whether that happens and how long that takes to get to is not really in my control.

“I’m comfortable with where I’m at and regardless of what happens I’ll do my best to put a squad together that will be competitive and try to win football matches like we have done.”

Challinor has worked his magic during his time in charge and he has a bond with the fans like very few others have had over the years, particularly in the most recent of those.

Before he walked down the tunnel after Saturday’s victory, he headed over to the raucous supporters in the North-West Corner - who he suggested made a noise “like Wembley” - to celebrate.

He’s a sporting hero in these parts, and all want him to continue to take Hartlepool in the right direction after more than a decade of decline. Saturday showed why.

Hartlepool: Killip; Sterry, Odusina, Liddle, Byrne, Ferguson; Shelton (Daly 86), Featherstone, Holohan; Molyneux (Cullen 86), Olomola (Burey 61). Subs: Mitchell (gk), Smith, Ogle, Francis-Angol.

Crawley: Morris; Davies, Tunnicliffe (Dallison 32), Craig, Gallacher (Ferry 60); Matthews (Tilley 73), Hessenhaler, Payne, Powell, Frost; Nadesan. Subs: Francillette, Ashford, Khaleel, Nria Noukey.

Referee: Scott Oldham