Mansfield Town romped to their biggest home win of the Blue Square Bet Premier campaign with a thumping victory over Ebbsfleet United at One Call Stadium.
Strikes from Ben Hutchinson, Louis Briscoe, Anthony Howell, along with a Matt Green penalty, ensure that the Stags go into Wednesday night’s FA Cup Second Round replay against Lincoln City full of confidence.
The visitors were forced to defend from the outset, but despite enjoying three early corners in quick succession, Mansfield were unable to seriously trouble Ebbsfleet shot-stopper Preston Edwards.
Liam Daish’s relegation-threatened created the game’s first chance when Liam Enver-Marum’s sweetly-struck shot caught a wild deflection off Exodus Geohaghon, which made a routine save for Alan Marriott far more difficult.
Lanre Azeez, who replaced the injured Liam Bellamy after 14 minutes, almost made an immediate impact with a low left-wing delivery that somehow evaded everyone inside the six-yard box.
But just seconds later, dominant Mansfield took a deserved lead.
Midfielder Chris Clements drove his way through the middle with a swashbuckling run, before he played a simple lay-off to Hutchinson upon reaching the edge of the area, who curled a beautiful 20-yard drive into the bottom corner.
Green could have doubled the lead when his angled strike was palmed across the face of goal by Edwards, which meant Enver-Marum had to hurridly clear the resulting danger.
Hutchinson saw an effort bravely blocked by Craig Stone from Clements’ resulting right-sided corner, whilst Green was off-target with another angled strike midway through the first period.
Ebbsfleet grabbed a surprise equaliser on 23 minutes when Enver-Marum slotted home from the edge of the area, having peeled away from John Dempster in order to reach Edwards’ long downfield punt.
Stung by the leveller, the Stags initially struggled to regain their earlier rhythm and momentum.
By the time Briscoe stabbed a shot wide after being put through by Green on the half-hour, the game had descended into a scrappy affair, with neither team dictating proceedings.
However, nine minutes prior to the half-time break, Mansfield re-established their lead as Briscoe’s sumptuous half-volley from Lindon Meikle’s deep left-wing cross, was inadvertently diverted goalwards by Stone.
The Stags looked both rejuvenated and menacing as they then sought to extend their advantage.
After a free, fine-flowing move, Green and Hutchinson saw powerful shots from within the area blocked by Stone and Neil Barrett respectively, before Clements fired over on 40 minutes.
Green then teased and terrified Joe Howe with some expert footwork to cut inside from the left channel, but his shot was palmed away by Edwards, who also saved Hutchinson’s subsequent follow-up.
The Ebbsfleet custodian had to be replaced by inexperienced understudy, Lucas Menz, on 51 minutes, after he innocuously sustained what appeared to be a wrist injury.
Menz’s nerves were settled when he held a thunderous left-sided cross from Briscoe, though the Fleet ‘keeper initially had little to do as his side began to creep back into the game.
Enver-Marum headed over after a near-post cross from Azeez on 66 minutes, which was shortly before Ashley Carew saw an effort fumbled out of play by Marriott at the expense of a corner.
The Fleet adopted the short-corner routine and thought they should have been awarded penalty when the troublesome Azeez went to ground under a challenge from Green.
Nevertheless, the referee waved play on and Paul Cox’s side wasted no time in registering a third goal to effectively put the result beyond any reasonable doubt.
Howell pounced on a loose ball in the centre and showed superb upper-body strength with a menacing run to the edge of the area, from where he drilled into the bottom corner with pinpoint precision.
Menz had to pick the ball out of his own net again on 78 minutes, when Green sent him the wrong way with a composed spot-kick into the bottom left-hand corner, awarded after Phil Walsh fouled Hutchinson.
Substitute Lee Stevenson came close to adding a fifth goal with a low 25-yard drive, though it mattered little as Mansfield did more than enough to record their biggest home win of the campaign.
Attendance: 1,845 (44 away supporters).