Mansfield Town under 18s’ pair Zayn Hakeem and Tyler Blake both got on the scoresheet as the Stags were pegged back twice to eventually draw 2-2 against Hartlepool United on Saturday.
Hakeem looked to have won the game with an 85th-minute strike in Clipstone, but the visitors got a late leveller with 70 seconds remaining to ensure the game finished all square.
The point sent John Dempster's side back to the top of the table, one point ahead of Doncaster Rovers who now have a game in hand.
Mansfield looked the livelier side during the opening exchanges and Ryan Catterick was forced into action early on when Zayn Hakeem slipped the ball through to Tyler Blake, but it sat up at the critical moment, causing the Stags’ number nine to rush his shot and the visitors’ ‘keeper was able to cut out the danger easily.
In the next action, Cameron Healey and Cain Smith linked up and swept the ball across the midfield out to Tyler Johal, a recent acquisition from Ilkeston, on the left flank, who showed a good touch to stroke a cross-field pass into the path of Shires, whose 20-yard shot was charged down.
Hartlepool then mounted an attack down the right flank and Teddy Bloor had to make a last-ditch clearance inside the six yard box as Jordan Jewson's cross-cum-shot veered sharply towards the goal. The game was frantic at times and before long the visitors came close again as Jack Blackford's shot from 15 yards out was deflected over Wilson's crossbar.
At the same end Sam Wilson had to make two saves in quick succession, turning away Dylan Elliot's stinging shot around the post one handed, before blocking Jack Blackford's shot as the Stags defence only half cleared the resulting corner.
Once again Morgan Ratcliffe wasn't found wanting as he was thrown into the thick of the action when he intercepted a Hartlepool break as Blackford surged forward, the Stags’ defender played the ball forward quickly and released Shires, who was denied a shot on goal by a last-ditch challenge from Jack Turnbull.
Soon after, Bloor swung a ball into the area and Catterick pulled off a great save at full-stretch, to keep out Louis Danquah's powerful header.
As the first half came to a close, the referee waved away penalty appeals from the home side when Shires played Johal through and the Stags’ newcomer went to ground when he was nudged in the back.
HT: Stags 0-0 Hartlepool
Wilson was in action again at the start of the second period when Jewson teed up a shot for Ethan Wood, but the Stags’ keeper anticipated well and got his body behind the ball.
Cain Smith almost opened the scoring for Mansfield, but having picked up a lay off from Johal, the hard-working midfielder beat Catterick but put the ball just wide of the upright.
Shires headed just wide from Blake’s cross as the Stags upped the ante again while Hakeem skipped through two challenges but drilled the ball into the side-netting.
On 63 minutes, Johal evaded his marker and was sliced down in the box as he advanced on Catterick’s goal. Mansfield's appeals were rewarded this time and Blake made no mistake with an emphatic finish from the spot to give his side the lead.
But the Durham outfit found an equaliser shortly afterwards – Pools’ left-back created the opening for Frazer Briggs to level things up in the 74th minute with a perfectly weighted free-kick through the Mansfield defence.
Pools’ defender Scott Howes set up an opportunity for Hakeem with a sloppy back pass, but the heavily-involved Catterick blocked the latter’s shot and substitute Drew Gibson rifled the ball over the bar with his first touch of the game.
With the hosts looking to go ahead again, Smith played the ball out wide to Hakeem and with the visitors’ defence anticipating a cross, the winger sprinted across the edge of the 18-yard-box and made himself space to get a shot in, but his left-footed drive was deflected wide.
However, the Stags got reward for their endeavours with a goal as time ticked on towards full-time. Johal crossed to Smith, who measured a pass to Hakeem and the striker spotted Catterick off his line and curled the ball round him to give the Stags the lead with just five minutes to go.
Hartlepool dug deep into their reserves and showed great attitude as they battled their way deep into the heart of Mansfield backline and during a frantic finish to the game, Liam Travers forced the ball over the line to snatch his team a point right at the death.
FT: Stags 2-2 Hartlepool
Football League Youth Alliance
Mansfield Town (0) 2
Tyler Blake 63 pen, Zayn Hakeem 85
Hartlepool United (0) 2
Frazer Briggs 74, Liam Travers 88
Sam Wilson, Teddy Bloor, Louis Danquah, Corbin Shires (Drew Gibson 77), Morgan Ratcliffe, Kieran Harrison, Tyler Johal (Charlie Shaw 86) Cameron Healey, Tyler Blake (C), Cain Smith, Zayn Hakeem
Unused subs - Frazer Hampton, Kane Baldwin, Tom Marriott
Ryan Catterick, Aaron Cunningham, Scott Howes, Frazer Briggs, Jack Turnbull (C), Brad Varga, Jordan Jewson, Dylan Elliot, Liam Travers, Ethan Wood, Jack Blackford
Subs - Josh Hawkes, James Dawson, Jordan Fielding, Adam Male, Niall Short