Mansfield Town succumbed to a cruel 2-1 defeat to Wycombe Wanderers on an incident-packed afternoon at Adams Park.
The Stags made the perfect start as an unmarked Matt Rhead opened the scoring with a bullet-header from Adam Murray’s fourth-minute corner.
However, the hosts levelled on the half-hour mark when referee Darren Deadman controversially awarded the hosts a penalty and judged Martin Riley to have handled a long shot.
Paul Hayes converted the subsequent spot-kick and it was a ‘game changing’ decision as it allowed Gareth Ainsworth’s team a route back into the match at a point when the Stags were on top.
Wycombe ultimately went on to snatch maximum thanks to Peter Murphy’s late header.
Boss Paul Cox made just one change to his starting line-up as Chris Clements replaced Jamie McGuire in midfield, whilst Ritchie Sutton passed a late fitness test to take his place in the xi.
The Stags got proceedings underway on a lovely sunny afternoon in leafy Buckinghamshire and began at a blistering pace as the hosts were immediately penned back.
Less than two minutes had passed when Dimitar Evtimov’s long ball downfield was nonchalantly flicked on by Matt Rhead to release Rakish Bingham, whose bullet-strike was tipped wide by Matt Ingram.
Bingham, starting just his second game for the club, posed a constant for Wycombe with his blistering pace and the striker had the goal at his mercy once again just two minutes later.
Rhead once again released the fleet-footed youngster – this time with a piercing low through ball – and Bingham charged down on goal, but saw his low near-post drive tipped wide by Ingram.
Nevertheless, the Stags made a breakthrough from the resulting corner.
Skipper Adam Murray floated a superb ball towards the far-post from the left side and Rhead was left totally unmarked, which allowed him to make a perfect connection and direct a powerful header into the net.
Paul Cox’s team thoroughly deserved their early goal as Wycombe were totally lacklustre in the early exchanges and took a long time to get going.
The Chairboys did manage to muster up a half-chance on 11 minutes, however, when a long, looping ball towards the edge of the Stags’ six-yard box caused to confusion between Evtimov and Ryan Tafazolli.
As a result, right-wing-back Lee Beevers had to hook the ball away from danger, but just seconds later, Aaron Pierre picked up a loose ball around 25 yards out and whistled a drive narrowly over.
The Stags still looked by far the more composed and confident of the two teams and nearly capitalised on some more terrible defending from the hosts on the quarter-hour mark.
Murray delivered Mansfield’s fourth corner deep towards the back-post where Rhead was yet again left unmarked. The burly frontman connected powerfully, but his header was straight at the ‘keeper.
From the next corner which the visitors won, Clements played a short ball to Murray, whose low drive was blocked, which led to the Chairboys breaking quickly on the counter-attack.
Josh Scowen carried the ball forward down the left flank and tricked Liam Marsden with some clever footwork, before he teed up Paul Hayes, whose sweeping shot lacked any accuracy.
The hosts gradually began to establish themselves in the game and enjoyed a little spell of pressure midway through the first half, which forced Mansfield back.
Martin Riley was forced to clear a left-wing cross by Jacobson at the expense of a corner, from which Scowen had a low effort blocked in a crowded penalty area, before the ball looped up and evaded Pierre at the back-post.
Marsden was the first player to go into the referee’s notebook when he brought down Joe Jacobson out on the left channel on 25 minutes, but Hayes’ resulting set-piece was easily headed away by Tafazolli.
Referee Darren Deadman was then thrust into the spotlight on the half-hour mark as he awarded Wycombe a spot-kick and booked Riley, whom he judged to have handled a long 25-yard strike by Hayes.
Wanderers didn’t appeal for the penalty, but took full advantage of this good piece of fortune as Hayes duly stepped up and planted the ball in the bottom-left corner – just beyond the dive of Evtimov.
Having got back on level terms, the hosts spurned a golden opportunity to complete an immediate turnaround.
Almost straight from the kick-off, Ritchie Sutton slipped under pressure from Hayes, who took advantage to break through on the inside-left and advance into the area.
Hayes played an inviting ball across the goalmouth towards Aaron Holloway, who looked odds on to score as he was just three yards out, but somehow he spurned a shot over the target.
Jacobson flashed a powerful 20-yard drive harmlessly wide just a minute later as Wanderers began to dominate and enjoy plenty of play inside their opponents’ half.
On 41 minutes, Wycombe couldn’t take advantage of another opening as Sam Wood’s right-wing ball towards the back-post evaded Hayes and then Holloway, who had taken up a perfect position and should have done far better.
Holloway was off-target with a header from six yards out before half-time, following a deep set-piece cross into the mixer by Jacobson from close to the by-line.
After a rip-roaring first half, the second half was less exciting in terms of goalmouth action, but still every bit as intriguing with the teams locked at 1-1.
Mansfield bombarded Wycombe’s area with a series of long balls, crosses and corners around the hour mark, but the hosts soaked up the pressure.
The Stags almost made a breakthrough on 58 minutes when Marsden delivered one of his trademark long-throws into the area, which was flicked goalwards by Rhead, but cleared late by Jomati.
Jombati, formerly of Bath City and Cheltenham Town, then twice produced last-ditch challenges to deny Bingham as the young striker posed a constant threat.
Wycombe still looked capable of stealing maximum points, however, and they forced the visitors into some defensive work with three quarters of the game played.
Tafazolli blocked a powerful shot by Peter Murphy, before the industrious Scowen let fly with a speculative 25-yard strike less than 60 seconds later, which Evtimov did well to hold.
With 20 minutes to go, Mansfield spurned a great opening as Clements broke clear down the middle and had the opportunity to play the ball to an unmarked Bingham, who was advancing alongside him to his right, but the midfielder held onto the ball for just too long and a defender nipped in to foil the attack.
A minute later, Bingham won a corner, but again, Wycombe defended in numbers and dealt with the subsequent pressure to remain on level terms.
The Chairboys’ defensive work ultimately paid dividends as they grabbed what turned out to be the all-important winner with less than a quarter-of-an-hour remaining.
Only moments after the visitors had survived a goalmouth scramble, Murphy planted a six-yard header into the net from close-range following a cross from the right, which put Wycombe 2-1 up.
Murphy suffered a bloodied nose in scoring the goal and had to be replaced by Matt Bloomfield for the final 10 minutes, which saw the hosts soak up more pressure.
In a dramatic finale, the Stags had a penalty appeal turned down, despite a Wycombe player appearing to handle, and forced three more corners – taking their tally to 16 for the afternoon, but it was all in vain.
Manager Paul Cox was sent to the stands during four minutes of injury-time, which the hosts saw out to record another good victory which maintains their bright start to the new season.
Attendance: 3,106 (261 away supporters).