Magnificent Mansfield Town moved into the Sky Bet League Two top seven with a stunning 4-0 win over Port Vale at Vale Park this evening.
Going into tonight's encounter, Vale were the in-form side in League Two with 13 points from a possible 18 in their last six matches, but Stags put on a fine attacking display in the second half to extend their own unbeaten run to nine matches.
Just three minutes before half-time, skipper Zander Diamond found himself unmarked in the six-yard box and easily headed past Port Vale goalkeeper Ryan Boot to give Stags the lead.
The away side dominated the second period, doubling their lead shortly after the break as Diamond grabbed his second, rifling an effort in at the far post from Alex MacDonald's corner. Stags extended their advantage through a superb effort from striker Danny Rose.
Rose's fellow frontman Kane Hemmings got in on the act on the hour mark, slotting past Boot into the bottom left corner after an excellent ball over the top from Alex MacDonald.
The result means Mansfield are unbeaten in their last nine games in all competitions and in doing so, moved to seventh place in Sky Bet League Two.
Stags' boss Steve Evans made two changes to the side that triumphed 1-0 at home to Stevenage on Saturday. Winger Paul Anderson replaced midfielder Jacob Mellis while striker Jimmy Spencer made way for Rose, returning from suspension. The hosts made one change to the team which defeated Barnet 1-0 at the weekend, with Tyler Denton replacing the suspended Anthony Kay.
In the second minute, Mansfield found themselves under early pressure. The hosts won a free-kick on the right-hand side when left-back Johnny Hunt tripped Vale midfielder Marcus Harness. The ball was lifted to the far post by winger Dave Worrall and after a scramble in the penalty area, Stags were able to clear.
Stags' first opportunity came in the fifth minute with right-back Hayden White and striker Kane Hemmings combining after a throw in. Hemmings was able to race into the box but his low cross was comfortably hooked away.
The Valiants had a chance to open the scoring in the eighth minute when Worrall played in Vale striker Anton Forrester but the frontman dragged his effort wide of the left post, much to the relief of 'keeper Conrad Logan.
In an end-to-end opening ten minutes, Stags' winger CJ Hamilton was able to cause problems on the left wing. Hamilton's cross landed at the feet of Hemmings who couldn't make contact and the chance passed.
Vale's direct approach meant Stags were being forced to defend a lot of balls in the box but winger Paul Anderson was able to dart forward on the counter attack and pick out Hemmings whose deep cross was met headed behind by Vale right-back James Gibbons. Rose made contact from the resulting corner but it never troubled the Port Vale defence as it went wide of the right-hand post.
The hosts were presented with another goal scoring opportunity in the 20th minute with Tyler Denton heading across goal to in-form striker Tom Pope on the edge of the penalty area. Pope sliced the effort, unable to control it, and direct towards Logan's goal.
Forrester went into the referee's notebook when he was booked in the 25th minute. The attacker was through one-on-one with Logan but used his hand to beat the Mansfield stopper to the ball.
A minute later, Forrester found himself closing in on Mansfield's goal only to be stopped by a perfectly timed tackle by centre-half Rhys Bennett ten yards out.
Port Vale dominated possession, without doing an awful lot with it, but Stags were dealing with the pressure fairly comfortably. Left-back Gavin Gunning tried an audacious 35 yard effort but Logan was alert and caught the ball without a problem.
Manager Steve Evans was left furious after 30 minutes when the already booked Forrester appeared to elbow Stags' skipper Zander Diamond in the face. The centre-half hit the floor after clearly being caught by the Vale man, but he went unpunished.
In the 34th minute, Hunt was booked for tripping Worrall who was racing towards the visitors' penalty area. Pugh's low and driven free-kick was deflected off the wall and into the side netting via a touch from Conrad Logan.
The Valiants continued to enjoy most of the possession towards the end of the half and in the 37th minute, Bennett stopped Pugh – who was bearing down on goal – another perfect tackle by the Stags' defender.
Having stood firm at the back, Stags took the lead in the 42nd minute through the excellent Diamond. After winning a free-kick on the halfway line, Stags took it quickly to White who found himself in space on the left-hand side and his cross was flicked on by Paul Anderson at the near post.
After bouncing up off the surface, the ball was met by the head of an unmarked Diamond and he cushioned it over Vale 'keeper Ryan Boot to give Stags the lead.
Vale immediately looked for a response and there was another last ditch challenge in the Mansfield penalty area to ensure Stags entered half-time with their lead intact. Anderson was able to shrug off Pope, who was looking to test Logan, to clear the ball away from danger.
Neither manager felt the need to turn to their bench at half-time with no substitutions made during the break.
It didn't take Stags long to double their lead after the restart.
Just seven minutes into the second period, winger CJ Hamilton brought the ball forward on the counter-attack and forced a corner. An in-swinging delivery by MacDonald fell to the imperious Zander Diamond in the six-yard box and he smashed the ball into the roof of the net to send the 537 travelling Stags' fans behind the goal into raptures.
Just two minutes later, Stags' fans were in ecstasy again as talisman Danny Rose scored a special goal from 25 yards out. The Stags' top scorer received the ball on his chest from Hayden White and set the ball perfectly onto his left foot, where he let it bounce before firing a left-footed effort in off the underside of the bar, leaving Boot with no chance.
Stags were really purring as they were putting the in-form side in Sky Bet League Two to the sword on their own patch.
Vale continued to come forward despite being 3-0 down. The home side won a corner just before the hour mark and Pope won the header, but Anderson was on the line to head away from danger.
The Mansfield fans were in dreamland in the 63rd minute when Kane Hemmings rounded off a fine goalscoring display. He beat the offside trap to latch onto an excellent ball from MacDonald and the Oxford United loanee kept his nerve to score his second goal in as many games.
Stags had to remain alert to keep their clean sheet. Harness brought a save from Logan in the 71st minute with the 'keeper comfortably able to deny the midfielder from range. The hosts were reduced to efforts from distance by the Stags' solid defending as Worrall fired wide from 20 yards out in the 73rd minute.
Top scorer Danny Rose was replaced by striker Jimmy Spencer 15 minutes from time.
Ten minutes from the end, Hemmings and Hamilton combined well on the edge of the area but Hamilton couldn't keep his effort down as he curled the ball over with his right foot.
Mansfield looked to add to their four goal haul, MacDonald seeing his free-kick blocked before his follow up effort raced wide of the left-hand post in the 86th minute.
The hosts eyed a consolation goal and almost had it in injury time, Conrad Logan stood strong to deny Tom Pope from eight yards out.
Referee Trevor Kettle called time on proceedings after three minutes of stoppage time as Mansfield Town extended their unbeaten run to nine matches and kept confidence high ahead of Saturday's hotly-anticipated local derby against Chesterfield.
PORT VALE XI: Boot, Denton, Anderson, Harness, Pugh © (Tonge 72), Pope, Worrall, Forrester (Pyke 67) Gibbons, Smith, Gunning
SUBS NOT USED: Montano, Hornby, Yates, Reeves, Turner
STAGS' XI: Logan, Bennett, Diamond ©, MacDonald, Anderson, White, Hunt, Hamilton, Hemmings (Butcher 86), Byrom (Atkinson 69), Rose (Spencer 76)
SUBS NOT USED: Olejnik, Pearce, Mellis, Sterling-James
REFEREE: Trevor Kettle
ATTENDANCE: 3,878 (537 away)