Howe left Burnley last week for personal reasons and returned to the club with whom he led to promotion from League Two in 2010.
The Cherries may yet be involved in a scrap to avoid dropping back down to the bottom tier but this result lifted them up to 18th and came after Jake Jervis had given Tranmere a 39th-minute lead. But an own goal from Ben Gibson drew the hosts level in the 53rd minute and that was added to by Harry Arter and Simon Francis.
Tranmere remain top but saw their lead reduced to four points by Stevenage, who were 1-0 winners at MK Dons thanks to a 27th-minute goal from Lucas Akins. It was the same score in the meeting between Preston and Sheffield United, the third-placed Blades winning with a goal from Dave Kitson in the 43rd minute.
Crawley stayed level on points with United and they, too, claimed a 1-0 away win, Hope Akpan netting in the 15th minute to condemn struggling Hartlepool to another defeat. On a largely good day for the top sides, fifth-placed Notts County beat Coventry 2-1, Andre Boucaud and Yoann Arquin scoring before Richard Wood pulled one back.
Paulo Di Canio's Swindon had to settle for a 1-1 draw with struggling Scunthorpe. James Collins opened the scoring but Aden Flint was sent off 33 minutes in and Karl Hawley levelled in the 56th minute.
Doncaster closed to within a point of the top six thanks to a 2-1 victory over Brentford, coming from behind after Jonathan Douglas had given the Bees a 45th-minute lead. It stayed that way until David Cotterill levelled in the 74th minute and Billy Paynter grabbed the winner six minutes from time.
Rock-bottom Bury are the only team in the Football League without a win, and their fortunes have not improved as they slumped to a 2-1 loss against Yeovil. Bury were already down to 10 men following Zac Thompson's sending off when Byron Webster opened the scoring for the Glovers in the 34th minute. And, although Dominic Poleon levelled 74 minutes in, they had parity for only two minutes before Sam Foley netted the winner.
Portsmouth are up to 11th after a 3-1 win over Shrewsbury in a game that burst into life in the second half. Wes Thomas and Izale McLeod put Pompey two up, and no sooner had Marvin Morgan pulled one back than he was sent off for serious foul play. McLeod made sure of the points with his second in stoppage time.
Oldham and Colchester were both on the march in midtable with 2-0 victories over Leyton Orient and Carlisle, while Crewe were grateful for an injury-time equaliser from Chuks Aneke in a 2-2 draw with Walsall. Jamie Paterson and Florent Cuvelier had put the Saddlers two up before Mark Ellis pulled one back.