Mansfield Town suffered only their second away defeat in Sky Bet League Two as they fell to a narrow 1-0 loss against Newport County.
Despite a battling performance throughout, Robbie Willmott’s first-half strike via a rehearsed set-piece routine was enough to see the Exiles to victory.
There were a handful of opportunities for Mansfield to mark their mark of the scoresheet, but it never came to fruition with Newport ending as narrow victors on Saturday afternoon.
As the Stags pursued victory, David Flitcroft left his starting line-up untouched for the clash at Rodney Parade.
There was, however, one change amongst the substitute’s bench with new signing Willem Tomlinson replacing Jason Law.
It was a sprightly start to proceedings in south Wales, which should have seen the Stags ahead instantaneously.
CJ Hamilton unlocked a burst of pace on the right flank to beat his man, and deliver a pinpoint cross to the boot of Nicky Ajose, who unfortunately lashed his effort over the bar.
Newport tried to fashion an attack of their own, yet ran into Matt Preston who expertly shielded the ball out of harm’s way.
Joss Labadie then found himself with space inside the Mansfield penalty area – his header though was directed off-target.
The game continued to ebb and flow in its opening stages as Preston was pressed with more defensive work.
The commanding centre-half flicked away the initial cross, before sending the ball out for a corner via a well-timed block just seconds later.
It was from this corner, though, that saw the deadlock broken in the 15th minute.
A training ground routine eventually led to Willmott taking aim from the edge of Jordan Smith’s box, and firing past the on-loan ‘keeper with aplomb.
Mansfield chased parity but were unable make a corner of their own pay dividends as they allowed the hosts to hook the ball away.
On 25 minutes, Newport had the ball across the goal line for the second time as Joss Labadie tapped home from a free-kick – but it was quickly ruled out for offside.
Jacob Mellis then opted to pull the trigger from distance but clattered the stanchion.
Smith was called into action as the clock ticked past the half-hour mark, punching Dan Butler’s cross away from the head of Jamille Matt who lurked.
Tyler Walker spun the Exiles’ skipper, Mark O’Brien, soon after but his left-footed effort was a comfortable take for Joe Day.
The Stags charged forward yet again but this time Jorge Grant was unable to profit from a loose clearance.
Walker was then involved once more – his cut-back being diverted behind for a corner.
Subsequently, Ryan Sweeney rose highest in the middle but headed clear of Day’s crossbar as the half was brought to an abrupt end.
From the restart, much like in the first period, Mansfield asserted themselves as the brighter side.
Flitcroft had switched Ajose and Benning with Danny Rose and Gethin Jones respectively; and it was the latter who fired an attempt at goal that skidded wide from 18 yards.
The striker was then involved in a heavy collision that led to eight-minute break in play and he was replaced thereafter by Tomlinson just shy of the hour mark.
Hamilton was able to deliver a low cross minutes later, but it evaded Walker and allowed Day to scramble across to claim.
A succession of Newport corners followed, although the hosts were unable to capitalise upon any as they did in the first half.
Smith was then quickly off his line to thwart Matt – who had snuck in-behind – keeping the Stags’ deficit singular.
Mansfield were not to be disheartened, though, as Hamilton burst forward. Linking up well with Grant, the winger received possession in a dangerous area but was unable to muster a troublesome effort against Day.
The fourth official signalled for 11 minutes additional time – with the Stags’ task of finding an equaliser looming large.
Sweeney was, yet again, a dangerous presence from a corner but as he connected with Grant’s delivery it bounced agonisingly wide of the upright.
Despite their efforts, Mansfield were unable to conjure an equaliser meaning they suffered only their fourth defeat in Sky Bet League Two, thus far.
Next on the Stags’ agenda is another away trip when they face local rivals Notts County in the Nottinghamshire Derby.
STAGS' XI: Smith (GK), Benning (Jones 46’), Preston, Pearce ©, Bishop, Mellis, Sweeney, Walker, Ajose (Rose 46’ (Tomlinson 59’), Hamilton, Grant.
SUBS NOT USED: Logan (GK), Khan, Atkinson, A. Smith.
NEWPORT XI: Day (GK), Butler, Labadie, Willmott (Dolan 88’), Amond, Matt, Bakinson, Bennett, O’Brien ©, Poole, Demetriou.
SUBS NOT USED: Townsend (GK), Marsh-Brown, Sheehan, Kennedy, Forbes, Crofts.
REFEREE: Graham Salisbury.
ASSISTANTS: Ravel Cheosiaua & Darren Wilding.
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Dean Treleaven.
ATTENDANCE: 3,133 (362 away).