Matt Green scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Mansfield Town surged into the Blue Square Bet Premier Play-Off zone for the first time this season with a fabulous victory at Lincoln City.
The Imps created the better openings in an unspectacular encounter at Sincil Bank, but were bitterly left to rue their distinct lack of a cutting-edge infront of goal.
Mansfield had spurned several chances of their own, but when Green latched onto substitute Lindon Meikle’s flick on in added time, there was only ever going to be one result.
The Stags were forced to defend in the early exchanges and twice came close to falling behind.
Jake Sheridan’s speculative 30-yard strike in the fourth minute was routinely saved by Alan Marriott, but just a few moments later the hosts again dangerously carved their way through.
Mamadou Fofana did brilliantly to work his way to the by-line, and his low pull-back fell kindly for Alan Power, who skewed an effort narrowly wide of Marriott’s left-hand post.
The Imps continued to look lively and when Jake Jones skipped away from his namesake in the Stags backline, he looked certain to unleash a shot, until James Jennings’ provided a last ditch intervention.
Power soon whistled a free-kick through Marriott’s six-yard box, before the visitors created their first opening as Tom Miller blocked Lee Stevenson’s low shot inside the area.
Mansfield rarely broke into the final third, but enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure midway through the first period, during which they peppered the Imps goal.
Junior Daniel’s 25-yard drive was deflected over the woodwork by Scott Garner, and from the resulting corner, the former Stags centre-back cleared Green’s looping header off the line.
But Mansfield weren’t done there and when Jennings whipped another teasing delivery deep into the six-yard box, it was Imps shot-stopper Paul Farman who denied John Dempster with a fingertip stop.
Lincoln were soon on the attack once more, however, and should have taken the lead as an unmarked Vadaine Oliver screwed a shot horribly wide after latching onto Jones’ through ball.
Paul Turnbull also blazed over from distance on the half-hour mark, whilst Power lacked accuracy with a close-range volley following some good work inside the area.
Nevertheless, Mansfield again came close through Adam Murray, whose bullet header was well-gathered by Farman, before Daniel had a strike ruled out because he was offside.
The Imps continued to enjoy more possession though, and on 33 minutes they almost turned into an opener, when Power’s low pass resulted in Marriott having to quickly rush off his line to deny Oliver.
The Stags managed to slow down the hosts’ surge in the latter stages of the first period, and were fortunate to be level at the half-time interval.
After a slow start to the second half, the noisy 1,107 travelling contingent thought their side should have been awarded a penalty when Fofana tangled with Stevenson on the edge of the area.
Despite vociferous appeals, the referee’s decision was to award a free-kick rather than a spot-kick.
But despite an expected Mansfield attack from Jennings’ subsequent delivery, it was the Imps who broke away through Sheridan and launched a quick counter-attack.
The winger combined beautifully with Turnbull and Nicky Nicolau, but Stevenson, who used every single ounce of energy, got back and managed to break up play.
Lincoln were soon on the front foot again, and wasted yet another chance as Sheridan blazed an effort into the Stacey West Stand after Power’s initial strike ricocheted off Dempster.
Moments before Matt Rhead’s introduction for Stevenson on 63 minutes, the Stags spurned an opportunity to take what would have been an undeserved lead.
Fofana was booked for a foul on Murray out wide, which allowed Jennings to whip a teasing cross towards the back stick, where Dempster’s header beat a flapping Farman and clipped the post.
Lindon Meikle also replaced Louis Briscoe for the final half-hour, and his weaving run through the middle drew an untimely challenge from Turnbull, which saw the Imps man cautioned.
Stags’ defender Luke Jones was another name that ended up in the official’s notebook as the card count grew, but chances by now were at an absolute premium for both sides.
The hosts still had the lion’s share of possession, but woeful efforts from Sheridan and Turnbull, both of which sailed horribly over the woodwork, highlighted Lincoln’s lack of potency.
And they were almost punished for it in the closing stages.
The Imps shot-stopper denied Dempster in the midst of a scramble in the six-yard box, whilst Daniel, and then Jennings from a right-sided corner, both tested Farman’s reflexes.
In the final five minutes, Meikle was twice at the heart of the action; firstly as he skewed an effort wide from inside the area, before his cross resulted in an offside Green testing Farman.
Green bundled another effort over the target on the brink of five minutes added time, but just as it seemed as though another ‘Imps vs Stags’ stalemate was on the cards, things changed dramatically.
In the second added minute, Daniel’s left-wing cross was brilliantly flicked on by Meikle, straight into the path of an accelerating Green, who rounded Farman and slotted home.
Green’s 16th goal of the season provoked joyous scenes of delight from the Stags faithful, who had supported their side brilliantly throughout the night.
His well-placed finish could hardly have been better-timed, but the drama didn’t end there, as substitute Dan Gray was later dismissed for a venomous lunge on Rhead.
Attendance: 2,734 (1,107 away supporters).