Paul Hayes’ double helped table-toppers Scunthorpe United to a 2-0 win at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
The experienced striker fired the Iron ahead with a sensational 25-yard volley early on, before stabbing home a second midway through the second half.
Despite the defeat, Mansfield produced a spirited performance and created a number of good chances, but lacked a cutting-edge against the resilient Iron.
The Stags began strongly and almost opened the scoring with their first chance of the match.
Anthony Howell latched onto a long ball latched and threaded a simple ball through towards an advancing Matt Rhead, who had a low drive turned round the post by Sam Slocombe.
From the resulting corner, James Jennings’ initial delivery was only partially cleared and following Ollie Palmer’s ball back into the mix, Rhead saw a tame header gathered by Slocombe.
Mansfield continued to look the more threatening of the two teams, but let slip another gilt-edge chance on seven minutes.
Palmer chipped a fine ball towards the edge of the six-yard box, which dropped kindly for Lee Stevenson, but the midfielder hammered a shot over the target.
However, despite such a dominant start, the Stags suffered a devastating setback when Hayes rifled Scunthorpe ahead with the visitors’ first chance.
The Iron frontman, who re-joined the club only yesterday, unleashed a sublime 25-yard volley into the top corner following Sam Winnall’s right-sided cross.
Mansfield didn’t deserve to be behind, but still looked lively when going forwards.
On the quarter-hour mark, only a last-ditch sliding intervention by Christian Ribeiro prevented Chris Clements lovely low pass from reaching Stevenson.
Matt Rhead volleyed wide in another attack just a minute later, before Marcus Williams cut past two players and rifled a shot into the side-netting in a rare Scunthorpe attack.
The visitors slowly grew in confidence and would have doubled their lead on 28 minutes, had Winnall not fired straight at Alan Marriott after Ribeiro’s through ball.
In the Iron’s next attack, David Syers had a powerful drive blocked by Ritchie Sutton, after a lengthy spell of pressure in which the visitors retained possession well.
Nevertheless, Mansfield were soon back on the front foot and Ribeiro was forced to track back to deny Rhead, when Howell played an inviting ball through.
Moments later, Stevenson was perfectly positioned inside the area, but couldn’t make any connection with Jennings’ left-sided delivery as another opening came to pass.
The Stags went close again on 39 minutes when Clements’ free-kick caused havoc inside the area, but a back-peddling Rhead only managed to head onto the roof of the net.
The last chance of an entertaining first half fell to Stevenson, who fired wide at a tight angle after another Clements set-piece was headed on by Ryan Tafazolli.
Scunthorpe almost went 2-0 up within 30 seconds of the re-start as Winnall flashed a ball across the face of goal, but nobody was forward in support.
Syers was next to go close as he whistled a low drive narrowly wide of Marriott’s left-hand side, following Terry Hawkridge’s inviting right-wing cross into the area.
Mansfield’s first chance after the re-start arrived on 58 minutes when Rhead struck a low 20-yard effort straight into the body of Slocombe.
The Iron spurned a great opening on the hour mark, as Mirfin’s header across the six-yard box reached Syers, whose glancing header was straight at Marriott.
The Stags, still searching for a leveller, soon made a double substitution as Louis Briscoe and Junior Daniel replaced Stevenson and Palmer respectively.
And it was Paul Cox’s team who created the next chance when Jennings’ corner towards the back-post found Dempster, whose cushioned header was blocked on the line by Mirfin.
By this stage the match was on a knife-edge. Mansfield craved a deserved equaliser, whereas Scunthorpe seemed content to waste time and sit on their one-goal cushion.
However, against the run of play, the Iron scored again on 73 minutes.
The hosts were unable to clear the danger from a terrible free-kick by Winnall, and in the second wave of play, Winnall’s slight flick inside the six-yard box allowed Hayes to stab home.
It was harsh on the Stags, who merited much more from the effort and commitment they showed.
With 10 minutes remaining, Paul Cox’s team wasted a good chance to reduce arrears when Daniel sliced high and wide, after a speculative ball through by Clements.
Scunthorpe saw out the remainder of the closing stages without too much trouble in order to maintain their place at the top of Sky Bet League Two.
Attendance: 4,115 (1,211 away supporters).