Mark McGhee lavished praise on two-goal matchwinner Tom Eaves after his Bristol Rovers side had been forced to fight all the way for their 3-2 victory by 10-man Torquay.
Eaves netted Rovers' opener after 15 minutes and then scored the 76th-minute winner from close range after the visitors had battled back to level from two goals down.
A relieved McGhee said: "I thought Tom was good in the first half and brilliant in the second when our other players seemed to be conspiring to throw the game away. He could and perhaps should have had a hat-trick, but got the ball caught under his feet when through on goal in the closing stages.
"I really saw our first-half performance coming because the lads looked sharp and confident in training. What I didn't anticipate was our sloppy start to the second half, which is something we cannot afford to ignore.
"We are improving, but still have a way to go to be where we want to be. The goals we conceded were poor, but give Torquay credit for hanging in there a man down and refusing to give up."
Eaves capitalised on poor defending to lift the ball over advancing goalkeeper Michael Poke to break the deadlock, and Matt Lund's free-kick doubled the advantage just two minutes later before the visitors had full-back Joe Oastler dismissed for a second booking on the half hour.
Back roared Torquay, though, and Rene Howe pulled one back with a curling effort after the break before Aaron Downes' header levelled matters shortly after. The Devon side improved hugely on their lethargic first-half effort, but were sunk 14 minutes from time when Poke save well from Eliot Richards only for substitute Wayne Brown to latch on to the loose ball and cross for Eaves to tap home.
And despite the brave fightback, Torquay boss Martin Ling was less than impressed with his side's display in the opening 45 minutes.
"I reckon 10 of our 11 players were off their game in the first half, with only Brian Saah exempt from that criticism," Ling said. "In the second half all 11 and the substitutes did well, but I would rather have nine performing properly throughout the 90 minutes.
"We are not grinding out results away from home this season and we keep conceding bad goals. At the moment we look a mid-table side. I thought Joe Oastler's first booking was justified and the second a bit soft. But he paid the penalty for a poor opening 20 minutes."