CHARLTON closed the gap on leaders Leeds to three points with victory over Hartlepool United at The Valley.

David Mooney’s 31st minute opener was cancelled out by Denis Behan’s early second half penalty.

However, a stunning volley from substitute Scott Wagstaff 11 minutes from time moved Charlton level on points with second-placed Norwich and within three points of Simon Grayson’s table-toppers.

The first opportunity fell Charlton’s way in the opening minute but Miguel Llera headed well over Scott Flinders’ bar from Grant Basey’s corner.

Deon Burton’s low shot from outside of the area was comfortably dealt with by the Hartlepool stopper two minutes later as Charlton began brightly.

Burton headed wide from Basey’s 10th minute corner, much to the bemusement of the mere handful of visiting fans sat in the Jimmy Seed Stand.

Miguel Llera had to make a crucial clearance at the other end to put behind Andy Monkhouse’s cross for a corner as the visitors finally showed they had turned up.

With his back to goal, Burton placed a powerful header wide from Richardson’s dangerous 17th minute cross.

Shelvey came closest to breaking the deadlock on 25 minutes when Lloyd Sam cleverly shook off his marker and played an exquisite cross into the danger zone but the youngster headed over from six yards.

Monkhouse produced a decent long range effort to test Rob Elliot three minutes later in a rare Hartlepool attack.

However, the seemingly inevitable Charlton goal arrived in the 31st minute when Burton set Basey clear on the left and his peach of a cross was headed home by Mooney for his third league goal in Addicks colours.

Ritchie Humphreys tested Elliot at the other end with a low drive which was caught safely, while the same player blazed over the bar moments later.

However, the game was turned on its head five minutes after the break when Llera needlessly fouled Anthony Sweeney just inside the area and Hartlepool were awarded a penalty, which Behan converted to make it 1-1.

Charlton should have restored their advantage in the 55th minute when Dailly picked out Mooney and his cross came within touching distance of Burton six-yards out, who surely would have scored had he been able to get on the end of it.

Only the post kept out Shelvey’s stunning 25 yard volley after the ball had been laid into his path, while Sam’s close range shot just trickled wide as the Addicks began to turn the screw.

Phil Parkinson made a tactical change with 20 minutes remaining when he threw on another striker, Leon McKenzie, in place of Shelvey.

Bailey saw a volley from outside of the area, while Sam fired straight at Flinders.

It was to be Sam’s last contribution as he was replaced by Wagstaff seconds later at the same time as Chris Dickson came on for Mooney.

And the gamble quickly paid off as Wagstaff fired home a volley from fully 30 yards beyond the reach of Flinders to put Charlton deservedly back in front in the 79th minute.

It was a stunning strike and a strong contender for Charlton’s goal of the season, although the most immediate effect it had was to calm the nerves of the Valley faithful on a freezing cold night in SE7.

Burton’s 85th minute header was off target from Basey’s cross, and Dickson had a strike cancelled out for an earlier foul.

Play was interrupted when a Borat impersonator invaded the pitch and gave the stewards the proverbial runaround before eventually being caught and led away.

His antics didn’t help Charlton’s cause though as five minutes of stoppage time were signalled, although Hartlepool barely threatened and the three points were secured with something to spare in the end.

Charlton: Elliot, Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Basey, Sam (Wagstaff 76), Shelvey (McKenzie 70), Semedo, Bailey, Burton, Mooney (Dickson 76). Subs not used: Randolph, Spring, Solly, Omozusi. Att: 14,636.