Mansfield Town picked up three valuable points in their quest for survival in Sky Bet League Two as they defeated Newport County at Rodney Parade.
Substitute Reggie Lambe was the match-winner as he turned home a cross by Callum Elder in the 87th minute – just moments after ex-Stag Adam Chapman had rattled the woodwork at the other end with a thunderous volley.
Stags’ boss Adam Murray made six changes to hit starting line-up with Billy Kee, Lee Beevers, Jeffrey Monakana, Jamie McGuire and Simon Heslop coming into the side.
Goalkeeper Sascha Studer also made an appearance in place of Lenny Pidgeley, who was unavailable to play against his parent club.
The Exiles got proceedings underway on a mild night in South Wales and immediately looked to set the pace when striker Chris Zebroski broke through the Stags defence only to lose his balance at the last moment.
Mansfield had their first sight on goal on six minutes when winger Monakana put in a well-timed cross that found the head of Kee. The powerful attempt on-goal was kept out by Newport ‘keeper Joe Day at full-stretch.
There were nervous moments for the home side five minutes later when captain Darren Jones had his pass intercepted in a dangerous position by Kee. The Exiles defence did well to recover to quell any further opportunities.
As the match continued, both teams looked to impose themselves but were unable to find the valuable breakthrough. This almost changed in the 24th minute when Newport almost completed a slick-passing move in the penalty area, before centre-half Ryan Tafazolli executed a well-timed challenge to break down the attack.
The Exiles threatened to break the deadlock again two minutes later when a Mark Byrne corner found the advanced Jones who could only place his free header over the crossbar from close-range.
As the first half entered its final 10 minutes, Newport continued to hold the majority of possession and threatened to go in-behind the Stags when midfielder Lee Minshull played the ball through to Zebroski who again could not control the ball the way he would have wanted.
Mansfield were next to get a good sight at goal when Beevers played a 30-yard pass from the right side of the field. Jones was unable to deal as it hit Kee on the chest, but lacked enough power to properly trouble the home ‘keeper.
As the first half came to an end, the Stags committed a large number of players forward for an attacking move and were hit hard by an Exiles counter attack ignited in the middle of the park by Zebroski. The visitors were once again able to stand strong at the back and the teams entered the half-time break with the score at 0-0.
As the second half began, Newport were the first to get themselves in an attacking position with some good passing build-up play that ultimately saw an intended cross from Zebroski cut out by left-back Callum Elder.
Studer was called into action in the 49th minute when a long throw from Ryan Jackson was flicked towards goal. The Stags custodian managed to get down low to prevent anything further from transpiring.
County continued to use their speed in transition to good effect but the Stags defence continued to handle what was being thrown at them. Their latest opportunity came courtesy of a free-kick from just outside the penalty area, but Byrne could only send his effort just wide of the right-hand post.
The Stags made the first substitution of the match when Lambe came on as a like for like switch for Monakana.
As the pace of the game picked up, Mansfield had their best chance of the match in the 61st minute when McGuire played the ball to Kee who fired a powerful shot on target. Day initially fumbled the ball, but eventually re-gained possession under pressure from the on-rushing Chris Clements.
Newport went to their bench in the 69th minute as midfielder Andy Sandell came on in place of Minshull. They made a second change shortly after as Yan Klukowski made way for the versatile Max Porter.
The Exiles showed their speed up front again in 74th minute when Zebroski went on a dangerous run up the left-wing. The move ended in disappointed as the striker fired his shot well over the crossbar.
Adam Murray went to his bench again in the 80th minute as he introduced midfielder Jack Thomas in place of Heslop. The Stags boss continued with an attacking mentality with his final substitution moments later Vadaine Oliver replaced Kee.
With five minutes to go, the match hit fever pitch when Studer pulled off a superb diving save to keep out a powerful volley from Chapman. From the subsequent corner, the ex-Stags loanee unleashed another 20-yard volley which rattled the woodwork and bounced down on the goal-line, before the Stags’ defence scrambled it away to safety.
Mansfield then found the breakthrough they were looking for in the 87th minute when a left-footed cross from Elder found Lambe who side-footed his attempt into the back of the net.
Despite Newport’s best efforts to equalise, the match ended 1-0 and the Stags going home with all three points.