Torquay took a 13th minute lead through recalled striker Jo Kuffour, who only started because team-mate Craig Woodman injured himself in the pre-match warm up.
Kuffour dashed through on Leon Constantine's flick, held off a defender and poked his sixth goal of the season past Hartlepool keeper Dimitri Konstantopoulos.
The Gulls threatened to pass their opponents off the pitch, one 20-pass move which lasted more than a minute prompting boss Leroy Rosenior to applaud from the touchline.
Torquay made and missed several chances to put themselves clear before, in the 37th minute, Pools squandered a great chance to equalise after home skipper Craig Taylor handled. However, Mark Tinkler hit the penalty against the left-hand post.
If Torquay dominated the first half, it was a different story after the interval. Their passing went to pieces and Hartlepool tore into them and won it with two goals in two minutes midway through the half.
In the 68th minute Adam Boyd flicked Joel Porter through to round keeper Oli Gottskalksson and score his tenth goal of the season.
And two minutes later Anthony Sweeney capped a man of the match performance in midfield by powering home a far post header from Jack Ross' cross. It was Sweeney's ninth goal of the season.
Torquay tried desperately to save themselves in the closing stages.
Ross headed off his own line after Konstantopoulos deflected a shot by Adebayo Akinfenwa and Alex Russell had a 25-yarder saved.
But there was little doubt that Hartlepool deserved all three points to boost their play-off chances.