Report: Stags 1-2 Exeter
Reuben Reid converted a last-gasp spot-kick as Exeter City staged a second half comeback to win 2-1 at One Call Stadium.
The result was rough justice on the Stags who had dominated the game for large spells.
A wonderfully taken goal by full-back Mal Benning put Mansfield ahead before the break following a strong first half display by Steve Evans' men.
But Exeter rallied to apply flashes of pressure in the second half and equalised through Ryan Harley on 84 minutes before a controversial penalty was won and converted by substitute Reuben Reid in the seventh minute of time added on.
Prior to the match, Mansfield right-back Hayden White was ruled out with a slight hamstring problem which meant a re-shuffle of the back four.
Rhys Bennett moved to the full back position, enabling a start for George Taft at centre-half, who had previously been sidelined since last September with a hamstring injury.
Krystian Pearce returned to the line-up after missing last Saturday’s 3-1 win at a Morecambe with a knock, which saw Kyle Howkins named among the subs.
A groin problem prevented Yoann Arquin from making the 18-man squad, but teenage striker Zayn Hakeem took his place on the subs’ bench.
Stags signalled their early attacking intentions with a blistering start.
Striker Shaq Coulthirst had put the ball in the back of the net inside 90 seconds but was adjudged to have handled before firing home.
Exeter then rode their luck when they should have been penalised for three blatant fouls.
And from a free-kick of their own on the right touchline, forward David Wheeler headed over from 12 yards in front of the Quarry Lane Stand.
At the other end, Coulthirst showed good strength to force a corner in the 13th minute, but it came to nothing.
Stags’ positive start to the contest continued and they penned the Grecians deep into their own half in spells.
Bennett swung a right-flank cross into the box a minute later, which Green headed at Exeter goalkeeper Christy Pym from ten yards.
Exeter won two successive corners in the 28th minute and from the second, Stags launched an explosive counter attack.
Coulthirst darted towards the Exeter box as the visitors tried desperately to get back and defend their goal.
After completing a mazy run, Coulthirst pulled it back from the goal line for Green on the right side of the area, who unselfishly laid it back for Ben Whiteman to shoot against an Exeter player and out for a corner.
And from an Alex MacDonald flag-kick, Danny Rose headed against the bar from shot range.
On 32, Exeter frontman Ollie Watkins dragged his shot wide from the right of the area.
Then came the moment of magic on 38 minutes.
Joel Byrom magnificently switched play midway inside his own half to pick out Mal Benning on the left of the box. The full-back’s touch was superb; in mid-flight with the left leg to cushion it down beyond his marker and in to his path to stroke the ball beyond Pym with his right boot.
On 43 after a lovely turn on the left of the Stags goal area, Watkins narrowly missed the target as his attempt rolled inches past the far post.
Jake Kean then watched a deep free-kick by Exeter midfielder Lloyd James sail beyond his post in the last minute of the first half.
Stags started the second period as they did the first, in penetrative mode.
And within a minute of the restart MacDonald went close when his attempt crept off target after Rose had flicked on from Benning’s long throw.
Green then lashed a shot wide from outside the box after promising build up play.
Exeter then enjoyed a short spell in possession and dealt Stags a scare on 59.
Mansfield defender Krystian Pearce came to the rescue with a last-ditch clearance to prevent Jack Stacey from connecting with Watkins’ cross inside the goal area.
As the game entered the hour mark, Kyle Howkins replaced George Taft in the Stags’ defence.
Nine minutes later, Kean made an impressive stop with his legs to deny Jack Stacey's 10 yard effort from the right of the box.
In the 73rd minute, defensive midfielder Lee Collins entered the field for Alex MacDonald.
Rose then sent Coulthirst racing towards goal for the Stags, but Pym got there first to smother at the ground.
Soon after, Exeter pushed their foot on the gas, before Danny Rose made way for Alfie Potter in the 80th minute.
Kean had to push away an Ollie Watkins curler as Exeter searched for an equaliser, which they acquired in the 84th minute.
Reuben Reid, a seocnd half substitute, knocked the ball down inside the area, allowing Harley to direct a left-footed shot past Kean from 10 yards.
Within the blink of an eye, Whiteman struck from inside the area, but Pearce was unable to convert with an outstretched leg at the far post.
Watkins then hit wildly over from 25 yards after getting the better of Rhys Bennett.
Pym had to get down low to keep out Whiteman's effort in time-added-on before making a save from the top-drawer moments later.
In the fourth minute of six added on, Coulthirst held the ball up in the area to release Whiteman, whose shot was expertly pushed aside by Pym.
Stags were determined to take maximum points, as Exeter tried to hold back the tide following wave after wave of late attacks.
But it was to be the men from Devon who ultimately took the points in almost the last kick of the game.
Referee Ben Toner adjudged Rhys Bennett to have brought down Reid in the box and pointed to the spot. Replays show there was minimal contact in what looked like a hugely soft penalty decision.
The same man converted from 12 yards to send Kean the wrong way and secure a late win for the visitors.
STAGS: Kean, Bennett, Taft (Howkins 60), Pearce, Benning, MacDonald (Lee Collins 73), Whiteman, Byrom, Green, Rose (Potter 79), Coulthirst
UNUSED SUBS: Jensen, McGuire, Hamilton, Hakeem
EXETER: Pym, Sweeney, Brown, Moore-Taylor, Croll (Oakley 76), Stacey (Grant 80), James (Reid 64), Taylor, Harley, Wheeler, Watkins
UNUSED SUBS: Olejnik, Tillson, McAlinden, Ampadu,
REFEREE: Ben Toner
ATTENDANCE: 3,878 (379 away fans)