CJ Hamilton’s emphatic first-half finish was enough to see Mansfield Town to a 1-0 victory over Port Vale at One Call Stadium.
In a game that started without any notable action, Hamilton took full advantage of space afforded to him as he smashed the ball home just before the interval.
Port Vale’s mountain was then made even harder to climb on 63 minutes when Manny Oyeleke was shown a second yellow card. Ten-man Vale were unable to find the back of the net as Hamilton’s solitary strike gifted the hosts all three points.
David Flitcroft reverted back to the identical starting line-up that earned an Emirates FA Cup first-round replay against Charlton Athletic.
After victory in the Checkatrade Trophy, attentions turned back to league action as the Mansfield boss made no fewer than ten changes – Ryan Sweeney being the only player to keep his spot.
Under the low sun at One Call Stadium, the visitors started afternoon proceedings as the better side.
Tom Conlon dragged an effort wide from the edge of Bobby Olejnik’s area before Tom Pope was unable to meet Ben Whitfield’s flick-on.
But Mansfield grew into the game as time progressed, getting a feel for possession and zipping it around the turf.
Intricate play between Tyler Walker and Jacob Mellis ended with the latter firing the ball against the side netting.
Moments later, as he so often does, Hamilton burst down the wing and was inches away from breaking the deadlock. He rifled an effort across goal that clipped the outside of Scott Brown’s post.
Hayden White was then chopped down by Conlon, who received the game’s first booking, but the Stags couldn’t take advantage as the set-piece was subsequently cleared.
The hosts continued in their pursuit of the opening goal but lacked the final pass to fully open up the Vale back line.
Walker then turned away from Oyeleke to trigger a counter-attack, only to be dragged down to halt the breakaway.
Despite suffering a slow start, the Stags seemed to be moving up the gears as the clock ticked past the half-hour mark.
Walker, involved once more, curled an effort that was bending towards the far corner that was eventually blocked by Leon Legge.
Flitcroft’s side now held the upper hand and it showed in the 41st minute.
The first-half looked to be sauntering towards a stalemate before Hamilton raised the roof with a rocket.
Port Vale’s defenders momentarily stood still, allowing the winger to sneak in from the far side and bury the ball past Brown with aplomb.
The decibel levels had been raised around the stands as the Stags took an all-important lead heading into the break.
Mansfield picked up where they left off and would have been two goals to the good, had it not been for a fine reaction stop by Brown.
Craig Davies did well to drill the ball across to Walker, whose flick from three yards was turned away at point-blank range.
The Stags were now dominating all areas of the pitch as they sought after a two-goal cushion.
After some quick-thinking by Mellis, White delivered a superb, low cross that somehow evaded every shirt inside the box.
Things turned from bad to worse for the visiting outfit just past the hour mark when Oyeleke was shown a second yellow card.
Subsequent to being booked in the first period, the Vale midfielder then tripped Neal Bishop in an attempt to stop him bursting forward – and gave referee Martin Coy little say in the matter.
For the first time in a while, the visitors came forward and looked a threat to Olejnik’s goal. The Austrian shot-stopper was on hand to divert any immediate danger away with a strong punch.
Substitutes Cristian Montano and Louis Dodds were next to be pencilled into the referee’s notebook after they both mistimed their respective challenges.
Heading into the final 15 minutes, Mansfield had their slender lead to hold onto as the Vale pressed forward.
Soon after, though, Rose and Walker together looked bewildered as they were unable to put the game to bed.
The former stung the palms of Brown after seemingly rounding him, before the follow-up fell to Walker which was blazed over the bar.
And immediately following this, the Stags broke from a Vale attack with no less than five players.
However, hesitant play towards the final third ensured Neil Aspin’s side were able get enough bodies behind the ball and see it out only for a corner.
Rose found himself in the clear as the game headed into injury time, but Brown was able to get a strong wrist to the ball and turn it behind.
White then made a lung-busting run down the length of the pitch, before seeing his cut-back evade three Stags' players who looked to be queuing up in the middle.
Somehow, Mansfield were unable to net a second goal but were not made to rue their missed chances as they picked up a second successive victory in their Sky Bet League Two campaign.
Flitcroft’s side are back in action this Tuesday when they make the long trip down to Charlton, in a bid to reach the Emirates FA Cup second round.
STAGS XI: Olejnik (GK), White, Benning, Preston, Pearce ©, Bishop, Mellis, Davies (Rose 54’), Sweeney (Elsnik 77’), Walker (Graham 86’), Hamilton.
SUBS NOT USED: Logan (GK), Atkinson, Butcher, Smith.
PORT VALE XI: Brown (GK), Joyce, Legge, Oyeleke, Pope ©, Hannant, Rawlinson, Smith, Conlon (Dodds 55’), Clark, Whitfield (Montano 55’).
SUBS NOT USED: Hornby (GK), Kay, Quigley, Vassell, Hardcastle.
REFEREE: Martin Coy.
ASSISTANTS: Steven Plane & Robert Atkin.
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Abbas Khan.
ATTENDANCE: 4,316 (459 away).