Stags' under-18s fought back from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw against Rochdale under-18s on Saturday in the Youth Alliance Cup group stage.
Rio Molyneaux was the star of the show for Stags, after coming on as a second half substitute and grabbing two late goals to earn his side a point.
Despite the Mansfield comeback, it was ultimately not enough to see our young guns progress to the knockout stages, after they finished second in Group 4.
Lewis Bradley and Ben Martin had given the away side a perhaps deserved two goal lead going into the break, but an excellent second half performance from Stags, in which they again showed their resilience and strength of character, ensured John Dempster's side took a point from the game.
Youth boss Dempster rotated a number of his players for Saturday's game, perhaps with one eye on Wednesday's trip to Bournemouth in the FA Youth Cup, with key figures such as Jimmy Knowles, James Tague, Tyrese Sinclair and Jordan Armsden all rested.
Just four minutes into the game, Rochdale had a fantastic opportunity when the ball was cut back to Fabio Tavares in the penalty area, who had space to get his shot away. With his attempt looking destined for the back of the net, Lewis Davis, in the Stags' back-line, produced a tremendous defensive block to divert the ball behind for a corner.
Rochdale were perhaps having the better of the play early on, as they patiently worked the ball around and waited for chances to present themselves.
Bradley was finding space in the Stags' penalty area as he timed his runs well, arriving late from the midfield. The Rochdale number seven had a succession of chances: firstly, in the 15th minute when his effort from the edge of the box cannoned off Jamie Chisholm and narrowly missed the outside of Keaton Marrs' far post.
Just moments later, Bradley again picked up the ball inside the Stags' area after some neat build-up play from the away side. This time though, his right footed effort was well placed and although Marrs got a glove to the ball, it found its way into the corner of the Stags' goal for 1-0.
Marrs produced a splendid save in the 22nd, after Florian Yonsian turned nicely and fired towards goal, yet the Mansfield 'keeper was on hand to tip his effort over the crossbar.
Tavares was causing some problems for Mansfield, as the tricky winger always looked to carry the ball when in possession. Just after the half hour mark, the Rochdale winger cut inside from the left hand touchline and after an excellent dribble fired his effort into the side netting, after Marrs did well to come quickly off his line and narrow the angle.
A corner for the away side was only half cleared by the Stags' defence. The ball fell kindly to Martin, standing on the penalty spot, and the centre-half displayed excellent composure as he side footed the ball first time into the corner of Marrs' goal for 2-0.
Stags almost got themselves back in the game moments later when Rhys Sarson got himself in a shooting position beyond the opposition back-line, but although he got hold of his shot well, it flashed past the goalkeeper's near post.
On the stroke of half-time, following a corner, a header from Noah Stokes released Kieran Darby through on goal. The Stags' forward was subsequently brought down, as the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot.
Sarson stepped up to take the kick, but his side footed effort low into the left corner was well saved as the 'keeper Morgan Piper guessed correctly and held the ball.
Just seconds after the restart, the away side nearly extended their advantage after a neat one-two between Luke Matheson and Tavares which ended with the former flashing an effort across goal and out for a goal kick.
Molyneaux was on as a half-time substitute for the Stags and his pace and willingness to run at the defence was already proving to cause problems for the away side. On minute 50, Molyneaux's pull back found the feet of Sarson who took a touch but failed to get over the top of his strike as he lashed his attempt over the bar.
Sarson came deep to collect the ball, and on the turn he displayed excellent vision to spot the run of Molyneaux on the right-hand touchline. His diagonal pass over the top was inch-perfect, as the forward collected the ball in his stride and fizzed a cross into the box which Daniel Purvin so nearly slid onto, but unfortunately couldn't quite get the contact required.
Stags were certainly the better of the two sides in the second half, and Molyneux was at the heart of their attacking moves. After beating his man, the No.16 aimed a cross at Davis, who saw his well-struck effort blocked.
With just six minutes of normal time remaining, Molyneaux burst down the right on the outside of his man and was brought down inside the penalty area as the referee awarded Stags' their second spot kick of the afternoon. Molyneaux took the kick, and smashed it away to the goalkeeper's right for 2-1, giving Stags renewed hope of getting something from the game.
With just a minute left to play, and with Stags needing an equaliser to give them any chance of progressing through to the next round, it was Molyneaux again who came up with the goods. On the right of the penalty area, the Stags' forward shifted the ball onto his right to open up the shooting opportunity and smashed the ball across the goal and into the corner of the net.
There was just time enough for Rochdale to go close again as Florent Hoti skimmed the top of the crossbar with a shot from range. The referee brought the afternoon to a close and both teams took a share of the spoils.
Despite their valiant comeback, the Stags concluded the group stage of the Youth Alliance Cup in second place, meaning their journey in the tournament came to a close.
John Dempster's side are next in action against Bournemouth away in the third round of the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday evening, with a 7pm kick-off.
STAGS' XI: Marrs, Stokes, Purvin, Langton, Davis, Chisholm (Armsden 45'), King (Molyneaux 45'), Saunders, Sarson, Darby, Rangel.
UNUSED SUBS: Boyle, Sketchley, O'Sullivan.
ROCHDALE XI: Piper, Matheson, Dunne, Hopper, Martin, White, Bradley, Hoti, Yonsian, Phillips (Wright 60'), Tavares.
UNUSED SUBS: Lee, Kisimba, Moreland.