Having parted company with boss Paul Murray following last Friday's humiliating FA Cup loss to Blyth Spartans, Hartlepool's woes deepened at the Pirelli Stadium as high-flying Burton ran riot.
The visitors fared well right up until the stroke of half-time, when Alex MacDonald broke the deadlock for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's side.
MacDonald netted again 25 seconds into the second half, with Shane Cansdell-Sherriff and Stuart Beavon completing the rout.
Tranmere Rovers climbed out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win at Dagenham and Redbridge, as Carlisle United - beaten 2-0 at in-form Exeter City - slipped down to 23rd.
At the top end of the table, Burton's win took them into second as Shrewsbury Town's goalless draw at Cambridge United saw them drop to third.
Luton Town suffered just their fifth league loss of the campaign as Steve McNulty's red card helped Morecambe to a 3-0 win - Kevin Ellison, Mark Hughes and Padraig Amond with the goals.
There was no such slip-up from leaders Wycombe Wanderers, who shrugged off the setback of conceding early to beat Southend United 4-1 at home.
Jack Payne's second-minute goal was eclipsed by first-half efforts from Paris Cowan-Hall and Matt McClure, before Jerome Binnom-Williams' red card further strengthened the hosts' grip on proceedings.
Goals from Joe Jacobson and Matt McClure wrapped up the points in one of four five-goal thrillers in the division.
York City, Portsmouth and Northampton Town all lost 3-2 on home soil to remain in the bottom half of the table.
AFC Wimbledon added to their FA Cup success over York with another triumph, while two late Northampton goals were not enough to prevent a defeat against fifth-placed Plymouth Argyle, and Accrington Stanley earned maximum points at Fratton Park.
Elsewhere, Mansfield Town drew 1-1 with Cheltenham Town, Newport County beat Stevenage 2-0, and Tyrone Barnett's last-gasp goal saw Oxford United overcome Bury 2-1.
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