Mansfield Town got their home campaign off to a great start as they ran out 2-1 winners over Oxford at One Call Stadium.
Adam Murray came off the bench to grab the 88th minute winner, just when the U’s looked as though they would snatch a point thanks to Danny Hylton’s spot-kick a few minutes earlier.
The Stags made two changes to the side which lost to Sheffield United midweek with Sam Clucas and John Dempster coming in to replace Liam Hearn and Martin Riley, respectively.
The first chance of the game fell to Stags midfielder Jamie McGuire who saw his 25-yard effort deflect off Oxford defender Jon Meades. From the resulting corner, Rob Taylor’s delivery was met by Dempster who failed to direct his header on target.
Stags dominated the first 10 minutes as a long ball forward by Studer was met Alex Fisher who flicked the ball on to Clements who couldn’t quite feed the ball through to Clucas.
The Stags continued to dominate the opening stages, with Chris Clements’ dangerous free-kick being headed behind by Mullins under pressure from Ryan Tafazolli. Oxford ‘keeper George Long comfortably claimed Taylor’s resulting corner however his attempt at rolling the ball out fell straight to Stags’ defender Ritchie Sutton who couldn’t capitalise on the mistake and mis-hit his attempt well wide of the goal.
As the Stags tried to capitalise on their bright start, Taylor and Clucas linked up well down the left before Clucas’ cross couldn’t find the advancing Fisher and the ball was cleared by Jake Wright in the Oxford defence.
The half-hour mark passed and the visitors continued to weather the storm as Clucas saw his half-volley drop wide of Long’s right-hand post after a good flick on by Fisher from Beevers’ cross from the right.
Taylor and Clucas remained Mansfield’s greatest threat as the pair again linked up well down the left before Taylor’s cross was claimed by Long in the Oxford goal.
With half-time fast-approaching, Mansfield broke the deadlock. A 30-yard free-kick from Chris Clements beat the outstretched hand of George Long before cannoning off the inside of the post and falling to Ryan Tafazolli in the six-yard box who directed his diving header in to the roof of the Oxford net.
The Stags’ opener seemed to act as a wake-up call for Oxford as they pressed for an equaliser, with Sascha Studer doing well to keep out Carlton Morris’ effort at his near post.
Not resting on their laurels, Mansfield could’ve doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time, with Ryan Tafazolli putting his header inches wide after meeting Chris Clements’ in-swinging free-kick.
That proved to be the last action as the half as Paul Cox’s men went in to half-time 1-0 up.
The half-time break saw no changes for either side as the Stags looked to build on their promising first-half performance.
The start of the second half was much the same as the first, with the Stags pressing without creating any real opportunities. Some neat footwork by Clements fed Fisher who was marshalled in to a wide area by Jake Wright and his cross was too long for everyone.
Oxford responded well with the lively Junior Brown picking the ball up in the centre circle, before carrying it 15 yards towards the Stags goals and unleashing a shot which flew over Studer’s crossbar.
The Stags almost doubled their lead just before the hour mark with the outstanding Clements chipping the ball in behind for Clucas who linked up well with McGuire before hitting a curling effort just wide of the Oxford goal. Clucas then received a yellow card for his over-exuberant appeals for a corner.
Oxford made the first substitution of the game after 61 minutes, Alex Jakubiak coming on for David Hunt.
What ensued was Oxford’s best spell of the game, winning a number of corners but failing to find that equaliser with the Stags defence standing firm and Studer commanding his box well.
The Oxford front-line continued to cause problems for the Stags defence with lone striker Carlton Morris flashing a shot across the face of goal.
Stags manager Paul Cox responded by making his first change of the game, with Ollie Palmer coming on to replace Alex Fisher and Oxford bringing on Michael Raynes for Jon Meades.
Another chance went begging for the Stags in the 70th minute when Rob Taylor’s free-kick from the right was met by Ryan Tafazolli, whose aerial presence posed a threat all day, but he could only direct his flick to Stags’ captain John Dempster who was in an offside position.
Oxford made their third and final change of the afternoon in the 76th minute, when Danny Hylton replaced Alfie Potter.
Oxford found themselves with a golden opportunity to equalise after Ryan Tafazolli was judged to have brought down Carlton Morris. Substitute Danny Hylton tucked away the resulting spot-kick with his first touch of the game.
The Stags responded well to the setback, with Ollie Palmer doing well to lay the ball off to Lee Beevers whose deep cross was well dealt with by Johnny Mullins at the back post.
The game became more open after the equaliser with both sides looking lively. Joe Riley whipped in a cross from the right for Oxford which was met by substitute Alex Jakubiak who headed over the bar.
As the game entered the last five minutes, Paul Cox looked to sure up the midfield, making a double substitution with Fergus Bell coming on for Clements and Adam Murray replacing Jamie McGuire.
Sascha Studer then kept the score level at 1-1 with a fantastic save to keep out Brown’s right-footed drive which was heading for the top corner.
With just a minute left on the clock, Stags’ club captain/assistant manager Adam Murray won it for the Stags when he met Palmer’s header down to smash the ball low in to the back of the Oxford net from 12 yards out.
With one minute remaining of the four added on, Oxford were awarded a free-kick in the corner of the Stags half. Junior Brown pulled the ball back to Joe Riley and Adam Murray came flying out to put in a tremendous sliding block to ensure the Stags held on to all three points.
Attendance: 3,024 (405 away supporters).