POOLE Pirates were involved in another thrilling final-heat decider, but this time came out on the wrong side as they were pipped 45-44 by Oxford Cheetahs.

As was the case at Berwick last time out, Poole got off to a slow start, trailing by eight points after the opening five heats.

But Pirates brilliantly battled back to lead with three heats to go, only for the hosts to rally again.

Poole needed a maximum in the final heat to take victory and they looked on course, led by the brilliant Tom Brennan (14), only for seven-time British champion Scott Nicholls (12) to find a way past Richard Lawson (13) to split the pair and seal the win for Oxford.

Despite defeat on the night, Pirates take the consolation of the aggregate bonus point (105-74), which leaves them well-placed in the BSN Series southern group, with two crunch clashes against Plymouth Gladiators to come.

Bournemouth Echo: Neil Middleditch's men suffered a narrow loss at Oxford

Oxford took four of the first five race wins, starting with a dominant display by Sam Masters in heat one.

Ashton Boughen easily won the reserves race, Luke Killeen joining him for a maximum.

Brennan took the honours in a shared heat three, a sign of what was to come for the remainder of the night, making an excellent start off the inside and holding off the threat of Cameron Heeps.

Nicholls then used all his experience to quickly reel in Ben Cook, the 45-year-old cruising to victory.

Poole’s hopes of reducing the arrears were dented as Lawson got his start all wrong after the track grade, eventually battling his way up to second to split the Cheetahs pair of Heeps and Jordan Jenkins.

Two more shared heats followed, Masters and Nicholls continuing their imperious starts to the night.

The score would then remain 25-17 for some time, after a track grade and a twice re-run heat eight.

Tobias Thomsen was excluded after falling at the back. There was then a nasty collision between the Oxford pair, the hand of Henry Atkins catching the rear wheel of Jenkins, the injury ruling him out of the remainder of the evening.

Sam Hagon eventually took the spoils in a two-man re-run.

Three heats later, Poole were in front. The decision to bring in Lawson as a tactical substitute in heat nine paid dividends, Poole’s number one combining with captain Ben Cook for a maximum, on a re-run after Jenkins fell at the back.

Brennan then produced the ride of the night to win heat 10. Trailing Masters all race, the Great Britain star battled hard and eventually pipped Oxford’s number one on the final corner to cap a brilliant ride.

Thomsen then produced an equally impressive ride, to overtake Nicholls and hold off his challenge to take second, behind teammate Lawson as Poole went 34-31 up.

Brennan briefly trailed Heeps off the start of heat 12, but soon took to the front again, showing blistering pace up the inside.

Oxford then looked like taking a maximum in a power-packed race, Nicholls taking the win, but Lawson fought back to get ahead of Masters and almost nick the victory on the line.

Zach Cook’s struggles continued as, despite his best efforts, he and Max Perry were on the wrong end of a 5-1 in the penultimate race, leaving the visitors with it all to do.

But Neil Middleditch’s men looked like grabbing a dramatic win, Brennan and Lawson out in front, only for the latter to be reeled in on the final corner by wily veteran Nicholls.

Pirates return to action next Wednesday, hosting Workington Comets in the Championship.

Oxford 45 (74): Masters 9, Atkins 0, Heeps 8, Jenkins 4+2, Nicholls 12, Boughen 6, Killeen 6+2.

Pirates 44 (105): Lawson 13, Thomsen 3+2, Brennan 14, Z Cook 3+1, B Cook 5+2, Hagon 6, Perry 0.