Despite a valiant showing, Stags' under-18s suffered a slender 2-1 defeat against Grimsby Town under-18s at The RH Academy on Saturday morning.
It was the fourth time this season that the two teams had met one another, with Stags having won the previous three encounters. It was Mansfield who also managed to take the lead in this one, when skipper James Tague fired his side into a deserved lead on the hour mark.
Grimsby levelled the score at The RH Academy, when Kyle Richardson coolly converted his spot-kick after a tangle of legs in the area led to the referee awarding a penalty. Stags were then resigned to defeat late-on, when a goal from Brandon Buckley snatched all three points for the visiting team.
The result means that Stags now lie in sixth position in the table, five points behind league-leaders Lincoln City as things stand.
John Dempster brought a new face into his starting XI, with Bradley Lathall making his debut - starting in the midfield. Jamie Chisholm was also welcomed back into the centre of defence, having missed the previous two games through injury.
A bright start to the game from the Stags saw Tague with the first sighting of goal inside three minutes. A clever flick over the defender was followed by a ferociously struck volley form the Stags' number eight, however Ollie Battersby in the Grimsby goal was well positioned and managed to turn the ball behind for a corner.
Soon after, a clipped ball over the top of the opposition's back line from Chisholm was met by a superbly timed run from Jimmy Knowles, who had got himself in between two centre-halves. Knowles, through one-on-one, collected the ball in his stride and was about to pull the trigger from the edge of the area, before a splendidly timed last-ditch tackle from Mattie Pollock took the ball off Knowles' toe and forced it behind for a corner.
Rumarn Burrell, the Grimsby number nine, had two half-chances in quick succession; the first, he smashed into the side netting from eight-yards out, after Brandon McPherson had pulled the ball back to his strike partner after a tricky run down the right.
Then, the resulting goal kick was pounced upon once again by Burrell, who drove towards goal from the left, before dragging his shot just wide of Keaton Marrs' near post.
Moments later, Knowles once again timed his run between the defensive pairing to perfection, as he beat the offside trap to got through one-on-one with Battersby once more. This time, Knowles had a little more time; he let the ball come onto his right foot, steadied himself, and let fly with a thunderous drive. The 'keeper had no time to react, but was thankful that Knowles' strike was straight at him as it bounced off his gloves and behind for another corner kick.
Knowles continued to lead the forward line in exceptional fashion, this time running into the channel to get on the end of a Tyrese Sinclair through ball, before beating his man round the outside, only to see his cut-back be cleared into touch by a well positioned defender.
Just before the half-hour mark, the visitors had a chance when a diagonal ball over the top was well collected by the onrushing McPherson, but the Grimsby forward sliced his effort high and wide of Marrs' near post.
Two more chances came the way of Stags before the close of the first half - a half in which the home side had largely dominated - and Knowles was at the heart of the action once again.
Firstly, the tireless forward tried to get on the end of yet another through ball, but the angle of the pass had forced him out wide. It seemed as though the pass might come to nothing, however, Knowles managed to latch onto the ball before cutting back inside and brilliantly skipping past two defenders. On his weaker left foot, the Mansfield number nine made a good connection with his laces but his attempt whistled just past the outside of the 'keeper's far post.
Then, Knowles threaded the ball through to Riley O'Sullivan, who did well to get the ball out from under his feet, before drilling a powerful left-footed effort at goal from the left side of the penalty area. The shot looked destined to find the bottom corner of the net, but a smart save from Battersby turned the ball behind, as he got down well to his left.
The second 45 began slowly, until Buckley rattled Marrs' upright with a ferocious shot from inside the box.
This seemingly sparked Mansfield back into life, and shortly after, a low cross to the back post from O'Sullivan found skipper Tague, who showed exceptional composure to take a touch, before expertly sweeping home the first goal of the game to give Stags a deserved 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, the ball dropped to debutante Lathall from a corner, but he was unable to crown his first appearance with a goal, as his looping side-footed effort narrowly evaded the far post.
Then, a tangle of legs inside Stags' own penalty area saw the referee award a penalty against Jordan Armsden as he was adjudged to have brought down Joe Starbuck. Richardson stepped-up and calmly tucked away the spot-kick to level the score with 20 minutes remaining.
Just two minutes later, Stags were awarded their own penalty, when O'Sullivan was scythed down inside the area. The acadamy's top-scorer this season, Jimmy Knowles - who just needed a goal to cap what was an excellent number nine's performance - stepped-up to take the kick.
He placed his penalty low to the left, but unfortunately for him, the goalkeeper guessed right and got down well to pull off the save. It was turning into something of a personal duel between Knowles and Battersby, with the latter seemingly getting the better of things this time around.
With just minutes remaining and Stags pushing forward in search of a winning goal, Buckley burst forward at the other end of the field and let fly with an audacious attempt from the edge of the area. The shot seemed harmless enough, however a somewhat fortuitous deflection on the way through to goal, diverted the ball away from a helpless Marrs, as it nestled into the far corner of the net.
There was little time for Stags to react, only time enough for Sinclair to fire a free-kick into the wall from 20-yards out.
The referee brought the game to a close, resigning the Stags to defeat. With eight games still remaining and 24 points still up for grabs, there is still plenty to play for as the hunt for a fourth successive EFL Youth Alliance title goes on.
STAGS' XI: Marrs, King, Sketchley, Cornell, Armsden, Chisholm, Tague (C), Lathall (Sarson 81'), Knowles, Sinclair, O'Sullivan.
SUBS NOT USED: Davis, Molyneaux, Saunders, Cashmore.
GRIMSBY XI: Battersby, Jameson (Stead 62'), Saunders, Curran, Pollock, Powles, Starbuck, Richardson, Burrell (Adlard 85'), Buckley (C), McPherson (Poynter 71').
SUBS NOT USED: Painter, Owodye.