Pompey finished 2018 on a high by thrashing Fleetwood 5-2 in a dramatic League One contest at Highbury.
Ben Thompson’s stunning strike gave them the lead, only for Paddy Madden and a Ched Evans penalty to see the hosts ahead at the break.
But Dean Marney’s red card for two bookable offences proved crucial – and the Blues took advantage.
Brett Pitman levelled with another spot-kick and a first goal of the season from Anton Walkes ensured they retook the lead.
It was left to Jamal Lowe to wrap things up with a brace that ensures Pompey will welcome in 2019 at the top of the table.
Kenny Jackett made three changes from the side that suffered a first defeat on the road at Gillingham on Boxing Day.
Two of them were enforced, with Walkes and skipper Pitman replacing Nathan Thompson (hamstring) and Oli Hawkins (ankle) respectively.
The other switch came in the middle of the park, where former Fleetwood star Gareth Evans made way for Ben Close.
That meant a switch to a 4-3-3 system, with Lowe and Ronan Curtis flanking Pitman in the forward line.
The hosts had a great opportunity in the opening stages, but Evans’ header was held low down to his left by Craig MacGillivray.
Pompey soon started to settle and Close was unable to make a clean connection with his shot, allowing Alex Cairns to save.
But the Cod Army keeper made an even better stop soon after, keeping out a volleyed effort from Matt Clarke after the defender’s first attempt had been blocked.
The visitors then received a blow when Lee Brown went down injured and had to come off, with Brandon Haunstrup replacing him at left-back.
There was reason to celebrate for the travelling supporters on 26 minutes, however, as their side took the lead.
It was a fine finish from THOMPSON, whose fierce effort from outside the box struck the underside of the crossbar and bounced down over the line.
Close might have doubled the lead, but could not get enough power on his header from a Lowe cross to trouble Cairns.
Instead it was Fleetwood who were next to score on 39 minutes, when Madden raced in to meet Lewie Coyle’s cut-back and arrow a first time shot right into the bottom corner.
And it soon got even worse for the Blues as Madden fired past the post, but went down after colliding with Clarke and, following a lengthy pause, referee Matt Donohue pointed to the spot.
It was Evans who stepped up to take the penalty, sending MacGillivray the wrong way to turn the contest on its head.
Pompey might have levelled deep into stoppage-time, only for Ross Wallace to clear behind and prevent Lowe from converting Curtis’ delivery at the back post.
Fleetwood Town 2
The Blues were quickly out of the traps following the interval, but when a corner was cleared, Haunstrup fired wildly off target.
Hopes were raised soon after, though, when Marney fouled Thompson and – having earlier been booked for a challenge on Curtis – saw red.
A cross from Haunstrup was then hacked to safety, as Walkes raced into the box to try to make contact.
Jackett soon made an attacking switch, with Evans brought on to provide more of a goal threat and Close withdrawn.
But it was two other players who provided the drama that saw the Blues score twice in as many minutes to take the lead.
Donohue pointed to the spot for the second time after Curtis was brought down by Ross Wallace and PITMAN confidently slammed home the spot-kick.
It soon got even better, though, as the Cod Army failed to deal with a Curtis cross and WALKES bent a shot into the top corner with his left foot.
The action did not stop there, however, and MacGillivray kept out Wes Burns’ free-kick, then quickly recovered to keep out James Wallace’s follow-up effort.
There was a period of calm after that, although Pompey were not content to sit back and Curtis continued to torment the home defence.
But they were lucky to still be ahead when, following a Fleetwood corner, both Madden and James Wallace struck the post.
Tom Naylor then hacked the ball clear from the line before Pompey went up the other end to wrap things up.
LOWE collected a pass from Curtis and held off two challenges, turning neatly to sneak a low shot inside the near post.
And it soon got even better for the Blues, as LOWE raced on to Thompson’s fine pass and lashed home their fifth goal of an eventful afternoon.
Andre Green came on for Curtis in the closing stages, but the visitors were unable to grant the wishes of the travelling fans, who chanted ‘we want six’.
Clarke came closest to adding another, but his header was well saved by Cairns. It mattered not, as Pompey had done more than enough to ensure they would end the year at the summit.
Fleetwood (4-4-2): Cairns; Coyle, Morgan (c), Eastham, R.Wallace; Burns (Dempsey 63), Marney, Biggins (Bolger 79), Hunter (J.Wallace 54); Madden, Evans
Goals: Madden 39, Evans 43 (pen)
Sent off: Marney (two yellow cards)
Subs not used: Jones, Sheron, Holt, McAleny,
Pompey (4-3-3): MacGillivray; Walkes, Whatmough, Clarke, Brown (Haunstrup 19); B.Thompson, Naylor, Close (Evans 53); Lowe, Pitman (c), Curtis (Green 90)
Goals: Thompson 26, Pitman 57 (pen), Walkes 58, Lowe 81, 84
Subs not used: Bass, Burgess, Wheeler, Mason
Referee: Matt Donohue
Attendance: 3,494 (853 Pompey fans)
Pompey ensured it would be a very Merry Christmas by seeing off Sunderland in a pulsating encounter on the south coast.
There was plenty of energy, but little goalmouth action before the break – but that certainly changed after it.
Gareth Evans opened the scoring from the penalty spot after Glenn Loovens had been sent off for a foul on Oli Hawkins.
Ronan Curtis soon doubled the advantage, although Luke O’Nien reduced the deficit in front of the biggest crowd Fratton Park had seen for seven years.
Nerves were quickly calmed, however, as Ben Thompson added another for the Blues, who continued to attack right up until the final whistle.
Kenny Jackett stuck with the same side that had battled for a point up at Barnsley the previous week.
However, David Wheeler had sufficiently recovered from a hamstring injury to take his place among the substitutes.
The atmosphere inside a packed Fratton Park was crackling before a ball had been kicked and continued to impress throughout the contest.
But while the action on the pitch was often played at a hectic pace, there were not many clear-cut chances to excite the sell-out crowd during the first half.
Ronan Curtis was a threat for the hosts and Jon McLaughlin came tearing from his line to deny the Republic of Ireland international a shot.
A shot for O’Nien then hit Nathan Thompson right in the face, with the right-back looking dazed, but able to continue.
Pompey put some dangerous balls into the mixer, but the Sunderland defence looked solid and headed everything clear.
Hawkins thought he should have been awarded a penalty midway through the half after having his shirt tugged by O’Nien, although referee Peter Bankes disagreed.
There were plenty of firm challenges going in, with Lee Brown and Lee Cattermole both receiving a talking to following one clash.
Hawkins was booked by Bankes for a foul on Loovens, with Curtis and O’Nien also getting a ticking off.
Duncan Watmore did well down the Pompey right on 36 minutes, only to see his cross deflected into Craig MacGillivray’s arms.
And the Black Cats had the best chance of the half just before the break, with Watmore squaring for Lynden Gooch, whose shot was saved by the legs of MacGillivray.
It had been entertaining fare before the break, but the action moved up a few gears immediately after the restart.
A brilliant ball from Curtis was latched on to by Hawkins, who charged into the box and was unceremoniously hauled down by Loovens.
Bankes immediately pointed to the spot and life soon got worse for the Sunderland defender, who was shown a red card.
It was EVANS who stepped up to take the penalty, with the skipper slamming the ball right into the top corner.
And it soon got even better for the league leaders after CURTIS collected a header from the hard-working Hawkins.
It looked like crossing for the well-placed Jamal Lowe was the better option, but instead he drove the ball into the net from a tight angle.
But the action was not going to let-up and Sunderland reduced their deficit when O’Nien turned home a cross from Max Power.
It was soon the Blues back on the attack and an effort from Evans was deflected narrowly past the post.
The respite was a brief one for the visitors, however, as they fell further behind from the resulting corner.
McLaughlin did well to keep out a firm Hawkins header, but Sunderland could not get the ball clear and Ben THOMPSON’s drive was deflected into the roof of the net.
The opportunities kept coming at both ends, with another attempt from the on-loan Millwall midfielder going wide, while Gooch blazed over for the Black Cats.
MacGillivray then took a heavy touch from Brown’s back-pass, but recovered well to deny Gooch.
Hawkins almost capped his impressive display with a goal on 73 minutes, sending his header from a Curtis cross inches past the post.
He received a standing ovation when being replaced by Brett Pitman soon after, with Evans having already been withdrawn for Ben Close.
And the two substitutes combined to put the ball in the net late on, only for Pitman to be flagged offside.
Pompey looked likely to add to the scoring in the closing stages and Close had a shot saved by McLaughlin.
But the crowd did not seem to mind settling for just the 3-1 win, as they exited the ground full of festive glee.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; N.Thompson, Whatmough, Clarke, Brown; Naylor, B.Thompson; Lowe, Evans (c) (Close 72), Curtis (Green 87); Hawkins (Pitman 81)
Goals: Evans 48 (pen), Curtis 53, B.Thompson 63
Booked: Hawkins, Curtis, N.Thompson
Subs not used: Bass, Walkes, Burgess, Wheeler
Sunderland (4-1-2-1-2): McLaughlin; O’Nien, Loovens, Baldwin, James; Cattermole; Honeyman (c) (Maguire 58), Power; McGeady (Sinclair 78); Gooch, Watmore (Ozturk 49)
Goals: O’Nien 57
Sent off: Loovens
Subs not used: Ruiter, Oviedo, McGeouch, Maja
Referee: Peter Bankes
Attendance: 19,402 (2,637 away fans)
Pompey’s fine run of form finally came to an end as they were beaten 2-1 by Charlton under the Fratton floodlights.
The visitors impressed before the break, with goals from Karlan Grant and Nicky Ajose seeing them take a commanding lead into the interval.
It was much better from the Blues during a hectic second half and Andre Green came off the bench to reduce the deficit.
But it proved no more than a consolation and a controversial late red card for Ben Thompson capped a disappointing night for the hosts.
Kenny Jackett unsurprisingly stuck with the same side that had comfortably beaten Southend at the weekend.
But it was an opening 45 minutes to forget for the Blues, who failed to find any fluency and struggled against their more vibrant visitors.
There were half-chances at both ends in the opening stages, with Ben Reeves firing over and Ronan Curtis sending a shot into the side netting.
It was Charlton who had the first decent opening, though, with Craig MacGillivray getting down to parry clear Lyle Taylor’s effort.
The Londoners looked dangerous with every attack and took the lead when Grant slid in at the far post to convert Taylor’s low ball, despite Pompey protestations of offside.
An equaliser looked on the cards after Jamal Lowe threaded a pass through to Evans, only for the skipper’s cross to be agonisingly out of reach for a leaping Ben Thompson.
The Addicks were forced to make an early change, with scorer Grant limping off to be replaced by Ajose.
But it was the replacement who doubled the advantage on 43 minutes, although again the hosts felt it should not have counted.
They were adamant the ball had gone out of play on the right, but the linesman disagreed and George Lapslie crossed for Ajose to poke home.
Pompey finally started to threaten just before the break, although their half was probably summed up when Lowe and Curtis got in each other’s way while trying to shoot.
Curtis also took an unnecessary touch after being found in the box by Lowe, while Tom Naylor’s hooked effort was saved by Jed Steer.
Charlton Athletic 2
Pompey did look brighter at the start of the second half, but their radar was still off, as both Evans and Curtis failed to find the target from inside the area.
It was certainly not all one-way traffic, though, with Charlton still looking a threat on the counter-attack.
One of those saw Ben Thompson make a clean tackle in the box, but the ball fell for Lapslie and Nathan Thompson had to fling himself in the way of the shot.
Jackett made his first change soon after, with Brett Pitman replacing Oli Hawkins to add to some fresh legs to the attack.
The game was now being played at a frantic pace and the Blues were trying their best to get back into the contest.
They twice went close from corners, with Steer making a save from the first and then Lapslie – stationed on the line – somehow got in the way of a fierce Curtis strike.
It was Matt Clarke’s turn to go close from the second set-piece, although his effort was deflected behind.
A melee had broken out in-between, but tempers were soon calmed and yellow cards shown to Pitman and Naby Sarr.
There were cries for a penalty when first Lowe and then Curtis went down in the box, but referee John Brooks – getting plenty of stick from the stands – waved both appeals away.
Still the encounter continued to switch from one end to the next, with barely a moment to take breath.
It looked like Curtis had steered a low shot into the bottom corner, but Steer and his defence managed to keep it out.
The ball was just not falling kindly for the Blues and when an effort from Pitman struck former Fratton defender Jason Pearce in the face, the ball ricocheted the wrong side of the post.
Green came on for Lee Brown in an attacking move, as the hosts desperately searched for a goal that would give them a chance of avoiding defeat.
And the on-loan winger raised hopes of a comeback, with Evans crossing from the right and GREEN slotting the ball into the net.
There were six minutes of added time for the hosts to try to find another, but instead they finished the game with 10 men, as a challenge from Ben Thompson was punished by a red card.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; N.Thompson, Whatmough, Clarke, Brown (Green 80); B.Thompson, Naylor; Lowe, Evans (c), Curtis; Hawkins (Pitman 56)
Goals: Green 88
Sent off: B.Thompson
Booked: Pitman, Lowe, N.Thompson, B.Thompson, Naylor
Subs not used: McGee, Walkes, Burgess, Close, Dennis
Charlton (4-1-2-1-2): Steer; Dijksteel, Bauer, Pearce (c), Sarr; Bielik (Solly 80); Lapslie, Aribo; Reeves (Marshall 55); Grant (Ajose 35), Taylor
Goals: Grant 23, Ajose 43
Booked: Sarr, Steer
Subs not used: Phillips, Stevenson, Fosu, Hackett-Fairchild
Referee: John Brooks
Attendance: 17,891 (899 away fans)
FA Cup 1
Pompey eased their way into the second round of the Emirates FA Cup with a 4-0 victory over Maidenhead.
But the National League strugglers made the Blues work hard for their opening goal at York Road, with Ben Thompson finally netting just before the break.
It was less of a struggle in the second half, though, with Oli Hawkins, Jamal Lowe and David Wheeler all finding the target.
Kenny Jackett made a single change from the side that won at Bradford in the league the previous week.
Nathan Thompson – back from a one-match ban – replaced Anton Walkes at right-back, with the visitors clearly taking the game seriously.
Gareth Evans skippered the side on his 150th appearance for the club, while former Pompey striker Ryan Bird was among the Maidenhead substitutes.
Both captain’s laid a wreath on the pitch before kick-off and the teams wore poppies on their shirts, while a minute’s silence was held to commemorate Remembrance weekend.
When the action got underway, it was Pompey who dominated possession without being able to carve open many clear-cut chances.
Carl Pentney was being well protected, although the keeper comfortably claimed a Hawkins effort before punching clear under pressure from the same player.
The first noteworthy incident came on 18 minutes, when the tricky Ronan Curtis got free down the right and crossed for Hawkins, whose header was deflected behind.
And they should really have forged ahead midway through the first half, with Tom Naylor the guilty party.
He failed to connect with an ambitious over-head attempt, but when Evans’ shot was parried into his path moments later, the midfielder turned the ball against the crossbar from a few yards out.
Maidenhead then came close to scoring again soon after, with Ayo Obileye’s strike crashing against the post.
Remy Clerima was also causing problems with a series of long throws, while Nathan Thompson was unable to beat Pentney from a tight angle at the other end.
Pompey won a succession of corners as the half progressed and the heavens opened, although were being frustrated in their attempts to test Pentney.
But the deadlock was finally broken just before the interval, as Curtis whipped in a low cross and Ben THOMPSON fired home to open his account for the club.
Maidenhead United 0
The second half was slow to really click into gear, although it was still the Blues seeing most of the ball.
And they doubled their lead on 55 minutes, with Evans crossing from the right and HAWKINS sending a header looping over Pentney and into the net.
That gave the visitors a cushion, but their lead was even more comfortable when a third went in on the hour mark.
Ben Thompson sent a free-kick into the box and Jack Whatmough nodded the ball down for LOWE, who turned and sent a neat finish into the bottom corner.
Jackett decided the time was right to make a double change, with Lowe and Evans withdrawn for Brett Pitman and Wheeler.
Pompey’s play was more patient with such a commanding advantage, but they were still looking to get forward.
And when they were unable to find a path through the Magpies defence, Ben Thompson hit a long-range shot that was saved by Pentney.
The keeper also kept out a header from Pitman after he had been spotted in the box by Lee Brown.
Pompey’s captain also fired a shot narrowly over the bar after Nathan Thompson won the ball back when a fine passing move came to an end.
The same duo combined again moments later and this time Pentney was forced into a decent save low to his left to keep out Pitman’s sweet first time strike.
But it was WHEELER who wrapped things up on 83 minutes, stooping to head home after Brown’s free-kick had been superbly saved.
There was still time for Pitman to steer narrowly wide following a mad scramble in the box, but the visitors could be happy with their afternoon’s work.
Maidenhead (4-1-4-1): Pentney; Clerima, Kilgour, Massey (c), Steer; Obileye; Odametey, Comley (Owusu 54), Clifton (Bird 67), Upward (Akintunde 46); Kelly
Subs not used: Hamann, Mulley, Alves, Worsfold
Pompey (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; N.Thompson (Burgess 85), Whatmough, Clarke, Brown; B.Thompson, Naylor; Lowe (Pitman 63), Evans (c) (Wheeler 63), Curtis; Hawkins
Goals: B.Thompson 43, Hawkins 55, Lowe 60, Wheeler 83
Subs not used: McGee, Haunstrup, Close, Dennis
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Attendance: 3,205 (710 Pompey fans)
Loan : Millwall – Portsmouth