Mansfield Town avoided a potential Halloween fright as they ran out deserved 1-0 winners against Everton U23s in the Checkatrade Trophy at One Call Stadium this evening.
The first half's best chances came early on, striker Lee Angol firing just over from inside the area for Mansfield before goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik had to be alert to deny Everton's Antony Evans.
The home side were by far the better team in the second half, dominating play and the goal their performance warranted arrived in the 80th minute when club captain Zander Diamond converted winger Alfie Potter's corner from a yard out.
Stags' boss Steve Evans made wholesale changes to his team with eleven new faces from Saturday's 1-1 league draw against Exeter City.
Goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik made his third Checkatrade Trophy appearance of the season, whilst ahead of him, centre-half Zander Diamond returned to the starting line up for the first time since August alongside Hayden White, Paul Digby and Johnny Hunt in the back four.
Wingers Omari Sterling-James and Alfie Potter came in for Alex MacDonald and CJ Hamilton on the flanks whilst in central midfield, Will Atkinson and Calum Butcher got the nod as Jacob Mellis and Joel Byrom were rested.
Up top, Lee Angol and Jimmy Spencer were chosen again after the pair started in last week's 2-1 Checkatrade Trophy win away at Notts County.
Everton had the first effort of the game but it was only a half chance, captain and former England Under 21 international Luke Garbutt firing high and wide from range.
The Toffees' next chance was much closer to the mark, however, as Antony Evans raced clear inside the area in the sixth minute but saw his chance saved well by the onrushing Stags' 'keeper Bobby Olejnik.
Mansfield's first effort came just over a minute later as they looked to take hold of proceedings. Midfielder Calum Butcher's cushioned pass sent Lee Angol through but he couldn't keep his shot down and it flew over the bar.
The Stags went close once again on the 10-minute mark as midfielder Will Atkinson saw a thumping shot blocked by an Everton body after 'keeper Louis Gray had parried down a free-kick by Stags' winger Alfie Potter.
Mansfield were continuing to have the better of the early play and after forward Jimmy Spencer drew a foul from Matthew Foulds on the edge of the area, winger Omari Sterling-James saw a free-kick deflect over the bar via the Everton wall.
In the 22nd minute, Sterling-James bombed down the right wing before delivering into the area for Potter but the Stags' man couldn't direct his header towards goal and the danger was cleared.
The opening half-an-hour had been more trick than treat for the 964 fans who had decided to spend their Halloween at One Call Stadium, but they were nearly given something to savour in the 31st minute when Angol released a shot from range but it was comfortably dealt with by Gray.
The Stags had the ball in the net in the 36th minute after Spencer spectacularly rifled the ball home from range but there were no celebrations as Angol was penalised by referee Michael Salisbury for a handball in the build up.
Neither side had managed to get a foothold in the game and the contest continued to be in the balance as they both searched for an opener. It nearly went to Everton in the 38th minute when substitute Fraser Hornby latched onto Nathan Broadhead's through ball but Olejnik rushed off his line to smother the opportunity.
Mansfield's next sight of goal came in the 43rd minute when Sterling-James hit a half-volley from the edge of the area which stung the palms of Gray.
The former Solihull Moors man had the first chance of the second half as well, fizzing a shot just wide of the upright inside the 51st minute.
Mansfield had begun the second period on the front foot and Butcher skied a shot from 25 yards after good hold up play by Spencer.
Broadhead was presented with a headed chance in the 54th minute as Everton looked to respond to the early Stags' pressure, but it was straight at Olejnik.
In the 56th minute Mansfield were left ruing a wasted opportunity as Spencer broke clear on the left but his pass was just behind Angol, which allowed Everton to get in a crunching block 16 yards out.
The most clear-cut opening of the game arrived on the hour mark and it went Mansfield's way. Right-back Hayden White hit a pinpoint cross for Butcher who saw his powerful header impressively palmed away by Gray.
Mansfield were starting to put their opponents to the sword and Potter's corner found Spencer at the far post but the former Plymouth Argyle man saw his goal-bound volley blocked by an Everton man.
The Stags' dominance continued as centre half Zander Diamond headed just over from eight yards out before Potter cut in and hit a curling effort which Gray pushed round the post.
On 70 minutes, Butcher failed to connect with the ball well enough when trying to acrobatically turn home White's cross.
Garbutt then hit a 35-yard free kick over the bar in a rare piece of attacking play for Everton in the second half.
The Toffees were now surviving wave-after-wave of Stags' attack and Sterling-James saw a shot cleared off the line after being played through by Spencer.
Mansfield had the ball in the back of the net in the 75th minute, but Butcher was flagged offside before sliding it across for Angol to tap home.
A lovely passing move by Mansfield in the 78th minute saw the ball played into the area by Hunt and after Angol produced a sublime dummy, Butcher hit a low shot at goal which was saved well by the legs of Gray.
A Mansfield opener had looked inevitable and it finally arrived in the 81st minute. A corner from the left by Potter wasn't claimed by Gray and Diamond was on hand to head home from close range to mark his long awaited return from injury with a goal.
Mansfield nearly added a second two minutes later but Spencer's low shot from the edge of the box was deflected out for a corner.
Spencer had worked hard all evening and he came close again to getting his name on the score-sheet. He chased down Diamond's up-field but after beating his man to it but his stretched effort failed to find the target.
Winger CJ Hamilton scored the winner in last week's Checkatrade victory at Notts County and when introduced as a second half substitute, he looked to get himself another goal but his late curling effort from the left of the area went wide of the target.
Everton had a last minute free-kick which they pumped into the Mansfield box but the Stags held firm to secure victory by the single goal.
Stags will now qualify for the second round unless Notts County beat Lincoln City by one, two or three goals next week.
If County fail to win, or beat the Imps by four or more, Stags will qualify.
STAGS' XI: Olejnik, White, Diamond ©, Digby, Hunt, Atkinson, Butcher, Sterling-James (Hamilton 80'), Potter (Anderson 90'), Angol (Thomas 90'), Spencer
SUBS NOT USED: Logan (GK), Bennett, Hemmings, Hakeem
EVERTON UNDER 23s XI: Gray (GK), Adeniran, Garbutt ©, Charsley, Foulds, Bowler (Hornby 27'), Sambou (Lavery 59'), Evans, Broadhead (Donkor 80'), Markelo, Ouzounidis
SUBS NOT USED: Hilton (GK), Byrne, Mathis, Denny
REFEREE: Michael Salisbury
ATTENDANCE: 964 (36 away)