Mansfield Town scored three goals in quick succession as they earned a comfortable victory over struggling Stockport County on a bitterly cold night at Edgeley Park.
Junior Daniel broke the deadlock with a thunderbolt free-kick on 35 minutes, before Lee Stevenson netted his second goal of the campaign when he tucked home Matt Green’s pass.
Green turned from provider to goalscorer as he converted a spot-kick in first half stoppage-time, awarded after Danny Hattersley, who had missed an earlier penalty, fouled John Dempster.
Stockport pulled a goal back thanks to Alex Meaney, but it mattered little as the Hatters remain embroiled in a battle for Blue Square Bet Premier survival.
The hosts began in determined fashion and came close to an opener when Hattersley headed over from close range following Danny Whitehead’s left-sided corner.
Stockport continued their bright start and soon had the perfect chance to establish an early advantage when Ritchie Sutton handled Andy Halls’ right-wing cross inside the area.
Hattersley strode forward with confidence to take the subsequent spot-kick, but dragged his dreadful attempt well wide of Alan Marriott’s right-hand post.
Buoyed by having not conceded inside the opening 10 minutes, Mansfield steadied themselves and gradually began to enjoy more possession, which forced Stockport to defend deeper.
Paul Cox’s side registered their first chance when Richard O’Donnell saved Stevenson’s six-yard shot, with Sean Newton having inadvertently knocked Daniel’s initial attempt into his path.
Both teams struggled to create clear-cut chances, though Stockport came close when Hattersley’s header drew a fine save from Marriott after Newton’s lovely left-wing cross.
Newton was in the thick of the action once more on 35 minutes, as his clearance on the line from Lee Beevers’ looping header prevented Jim Gannon’s men from falling behind.
But Stockport’s resistance was soon broken as Mansfield emphatically struck three times in quick succession before the interval, which effectively put the result beyond doubt.
Joe Connor fouled Anthony Howell only inches outside the Hatters area, before Daniel powerfully struck the resulting free-kick straight through a poor defensive wall to break the deadlock.
Stockport’s misery was then doubled as Green exquisitely guided Beevers’ deep left-wing punt into the path of a grateful Stevenson, who emphatically tapped home to double the advantage.
Marriott saved Whitehead’s low drive at the other end, before the visitors were awarded a stoppage time penalty after Hattersley needlessly pushed Dempster inside the area.
Green took responsibility with the spot-kick and nonchalantly fired beyond a helpless O’Donnell, which led to ‘Easy’ chants from Mansfield’s travelling contingent of 139 supporters.
Booed off at the break, Stockport boss Jim Gannon made a double substitution at the interval as Tom Collins and Matt Mainwaring replaced Halls and the luckless Hattersley respectively.
However, the changes failed to inject any fresh impetus into the Hatters, who only came close to registering a consolation when Connor Jennings almost connected to Jon Nolan’s inviting low cross.
Instead, Mansfield looked at ease against their sloppy counterparts and nearly added a fourth on the hour mark when Howell dragged his low effort wide of O’Donnell’s right-hand post.
Lindon Meikle’s teasing delivery towards the back post almost reached Stevenson on 69 minutes, whilst a more venomous strike by Howell was saved by the Hatters custodian soon afterwards.
Both Alex Kenyon and Jennings were narrowly off-target for Stockport, before substitute Meaney reduced arrears on 81 minutes when Whitehead’s shot cannoned off the post and fell into his path.
Mansfield, who have now won three away games in succession, climb to ninth position in the table; six points behind fifth-placed Kidderminster Harriers.
Attendance: 2,647 (139 away).