Report: Stags 0-2 Plymouth
Mansfield Town were left to rue missed chances as Plymouth Argyle netted a quick-fire double to record a smash-and-grab win.
Steve Evans' men had a harvest of opportunities to find the net, especially in the first half, but couldn't beat McCormick.
Stags completely bossed the first half and much of the second, until Graham Carey set up the first and scored the other to complete the win.
It was Mansfield’s best first half performance of the season as they penned second-placed Plymouth into their own half in long spells.
Few would have predicted the final scoreline at the break - such was Stags' dominance. But after a tireless display for over an hour, Stags appeared deflated after conceding two goals in quick succession, which never looked on the cards.
Striker Matt Green made his first start in four matches, playing ahead of Ben Whiteman, while Joel Byrom returned to midfield.
With 90 seconds played, Whiteman ignited the first Stags’ attack.
After receiving a return pass from CJ Hamilton on the left, the skilful midfielder sent an inviting ball into the area, but it was just too far for the advancing Green to connect with on the edge of the goal area.
Stags early intent continued less than two minutes later. Alex MacDonald broke the offside trap to progress into the Plymouth box, but his shot was denied by visiting goalkeeper Luke McCormick at his near post.
And it was the Plymouth goalkeeper who came to the Pilgrims’ rescue on nine minutes as Stags pressure on the visiting goal intensified.
Green did well to get the better of his marker Jakub Sokolik, yet couldn’t chip the onrushing McCormick, who got enough on it in mid-flight to prevent a Stags opener.
Moments later, Mal Benning directed a lovely-weighted cross-field ball into the path of MacDonald, but his shot was straight at McCormick.
In the first half, the closest Plymouth came to a goal was on 18 minutes in their first effort.
Graham Carey’s left-footed free-kick was flighted beyond the Stags’ defensive wall, and crucially, the target.
At the other end, Green wriggled his way beyond the Plymouth defence, and Whiteman took over from 12 yards, only to blast over.
Whiteman showed his class on 26 with a clever turn and knock into the box, yet it was just inches too much for MacDonald to latch on to, allowing McCormick to gather,
A minute later, Whiteman, on loan from Sheffield United, should have tested McCormick. Benning assisted with a low left-sided pass, yet Whiteman’s side footed attempt missed the target from 16 yards in the best chance of the half.
Stags’ onslaught was now relentless and their slick penetrative play was continually piercing the Plymouth rearguard.
McCormick was called upon again with half-an-hour played when Joel Byrom’s inswinging corner was met by the head of Rhys Bennett. However, the 33-year-old goalkeeper was well placed and gratefully clutched the ball at his chest.
Bennett then knocked a sensational 40 yard ball to MacDonald, but his cross to Hamilton yielded little.
On 34, Hamilton was stopped in his tracks 25 yards from goal after a blistering run which beat two players. After flying by Oscar Threlkeld on the halfway line, Hamilton was cynically brought down by Sokolik, who was duly given a yellow card when it could have been more severe.
And MacDonald stepped up to bend it over the wall, only for McCormick to be well behind it.
Stags continued into the second half from where they left in the first.
Six minutes into the second period, MacDonald delivered from the right and Green’s header was deflected off the back of Threlkeld to go out for a corner.
On 55, White was the architect from the same flank and this time Hamilton headed goalwards but McCormick made the save.
As the game crept beyond the hour-mark, MacDonald’s rifled effort from the right flank was denied by McCormick.
Whiteman then saw his 25-yard free-kick sail over the bar in front of the North Stand.
But Stags were caught off guard with a quick free-kick from the visitors which led to their breakthrough. Carey got the better of Hamilton before the Plymouth midfielder was brought down just outside the box.
And from it, Plymouth took the lead in the 69th minute.
Ten yards from the goal line, a pin-point free-kick by Carey was headed home at the back post by centre-half Sonny Bradley.
Then Carey turned from provider to goalscorer with a special strike on 74.
Whipping it beyond the Stags wall, goalkeeper Scott Shearer was left with no chance as he dived to his right, only to see it fly into the top corner.
Stags made a double change as Lee Collins was replaced by Shaq Coulthirst and Danny Rose took the place of Matt Green.
White then won Mansfield a free-kick eight yards from the Plymouth goal line but Byrom's delivery was found wanting.
On 84, Alfie Potter replaced Alex MacDonald in midfield.
In time added-on, Danny Rose's looping header sailed over from Joel Byrom's flag-kick, with the same act replicated again before the referee called time on a contest in which Stags undoubtedly deserved something to show for their efforts.
STAGS: Shearer, White, Pearce, Bennett, Benning, MacDonald (Potter 84), Collins (Coulthirst 76), Byrom, Hamilton, Whiteman, Green (Rose 76)
UNUSED SUBS: Jensen, McGuire, Baxendale, Arquin
PLYMOUTH: McCormick, Thelkeld, Sokolik, Bradley, Sawyer, Songo’o, Fox (Miller 88), Donaldson, Carey, Slew (Jarvis 62), Taylor (Spencer H/T)
UNUSED SUBS: Dorel, Bulvitis, Blissett, Tanner
REFEREE: Richard Clark
ATTENDANCE: 4,546 (657 away)