Hartlepool manager Mick Wadsworth was proud of his players' efforts after they led before going down 4-1 to Championship Watford in the third round of the FA Cup.
Pools led on the stroke of half-time through Anthony Sweeney.
But Piero Mingoia equalised for the Hornets midway through the second period, leaving Marvin Sordell's brace and a strike from substitute Danny Graham to extinguish any hopes of an upset for the League One play-off hopefuls.
"I think they can take a lot of pride from the first hour, perhaps just over an hour, because they played excellently. It was a real good performance," said Wadsworth.
"We've just discussed the disappointing factors in the changing rooms. The lads are fantastic and they'll recover.
"I never mind losing, I've had a lot of practice over the years, it's how we lose.
"It was disappointing in many respects over the last 20 minutes, but I look at the other side and we gave them a hell of a scare and played really, really well."