Mansfield Town returned to winning ways with a very accomplished and professional performance away at play-off hopefuls Carlisle United.
The Stags recorded their ninth away win of the season for the first time since the 2003-04 campaign thanks to a fantastic result on a beautiful day in Cumbria.
A goal in either half put the Stags firmly in control after make-shift full-back Colin Daniel opened the scoring with a confidently struck effort inside the box after twenty minutes.
Winger Reggie Lambe further extended the Stags’ advantage with a deflected strike midway through the second period.
Full-back Tom Miller pulled one back for the Cumbrians deep into stoppage time, but there was little time for the hosts to go on and find an equaliser.
Stags’ manager Adam Murray made three changes to the side that lost at Hartlepool with Daniel, Lambe and right-back Daniel Alfei coming in for left-back Malvind Benning, who dropped to the bench, defender Kyrstian Pearce and midfielder Chris Clements.
Centre-half Pearce started his three game suspension following last week’s red card and midfielder Clements, who went off at Hartlepool, also missed out due to a hamstring injury.
Lambe returned to the starting line-up for the first time since the draw with Portsmouth, as Murray was forced into shuffling his pack.
The Stags started the game in a 4-4-2 formation, Daniel slotted in at left-back, with Lambe, Thomas, Chapman and Blair across the middle and a forward partnership of Green and Dieseruvwe.
The first chance of the game went to the hosts after five minutes when midfielder Alex Gilliead turned past midfielder Adam Chapman on the edge of the box and his low effort struck the foot of the post and bounced away from danger.
The Stags had their first chance of the game not long after, the ball ricocheted just wide off of midfielder Matty Blair following good work from Jack Thomas, and moments later Green’s diving header from Daniel Alfei’s cross was turned around the post by Mark Gillespie.
Lambe threatened to open the scoring when he went on a driving run, which started from inside his own half, as he dribbled to the edge of the box where his left-footed effort was blocked away for a corner.
And from the resulting corner, Daniel opened the scoring. He hammered home a loose ball inside the box following defender Ryan Tafazolli’s header towards goal and the Stags were good value for their lead after the opening twenty minutes.
The Cumbrians had a great to get back on level terms five minutes later when winger Jason Kennedy found himself in space in the Stags’ six-yard box, but his acrobatic effort went just wide of Scott Shearer’s right-hand post.
In the hosts’ next attack, Kennedy was involved in another chance for an equaliser as his low centre from the right-hand side of the box was poked wide by forward Jabo Ibehre.
On the half-hour mark the home side turned up the pressure in their search for an equaliser. Brandon Comley stung the palms of Shearer with a powerful effort from the edge of the box, then Adam Chapman cleared the ball off of the line from the resulting corner.
Goalscorer Daniel was forced off through injury five minutes before half-time following an accidental clash with teammate Matt Green and Benning replaced him in a like-for-like change at full-back.
Green’s strike partner Mani Dieseruvwe also needed treatment following a late tackle from United full-back Miller and the Stags’ players flocked to the referee to protest the challenge, but referee David Webb only deemed the challenge worthy of a yellow card.
Minutes before half-time, Ibehre was desperately close to getting on the score sheet when he got on the end of centre-half Mark Ellis’ knock down but his left-footed volley just shaved the post as Shearer was rooted to the spot.
Midfielder Mitchell Rose replaced forward Dieseruvwe five minutes into the second half, as Stags’ boss Murray reverted to a more defensive and solid 4-5-1 formation.
United manager Keith Curle made his first substitution on the hour mark as forward Hallam Hope, who is on-loan from Bury, replaced centre-half Mark Ellis as he looked to the change to a more attacking
The hosts’ change was to no avail, as Lambe doubled the Stags’ lead moments later. He twisted and turned on the edge of the Cumbrians’ box and his low left-footed effort seemed to wrong foot goalkeeper Gillespie as it nestled into the bottom corner.
Michael Raynes started the game in his natural centre-half position but with a mountain to climb, Blues’ boss Curle threw the former Stags’ man up-front in a desperate attempt to get back into the game.
Hope had an opportunity to halve the deficit following a defence-splitting pass from the lively Alex Gilliead as Shearer rushed out quickly to block the substitute’s effort from six yards.
Stags’ boss Murray replaced teenage midfielder Jack Thomas with Jamie McGuire to further see the game out with fifteen minutes remaining.
Tafazolli had a chance to further extend the visitors’ lead ten minutes from time, but he couldn’t connect properly with Chapman’s corner and his right-footed effort trickled into the hands of Blues’ ‘keeper Mark Gillespie.
As expected, the home side threw an aerial bombardment at the Stags as they looked for a way back into the game and Tom Miller did manage to score a consolation deep into stoppage time as he prodded the ball home from close range, denying Shearer his clean sheet.
With just seconds remaining after the restart, the referee brought the contest to a close as Stags recorded a win over a top half team for the first time this season.
Blues’ XI: Gillespie (GK), Miller, Grainger (Capt.), Raynes, Kennedy (Stacey 75’), Wyke, Ibehre (Asamoah 68’), Comley, Gilliead, Gillesphey, Ellis (Hope 60’).
Unused subs: Hanford (GK), Joyce, Atkinson, Sweeney.
Stags’ XI: Shearer (GK), Collins (Capt.), Chapman, Green, Daniel (Benning 38’), Tafazolli, Dieseruvwe (Rose 49’), Blair, Lambe, Thomas (McGuire 76’), Alfei.
Unused subs: Jensen (GK), Beardsley, Yussuf, Baxendale.
Attendance: 4,426 (156 Away)