Mansfield Town completed a dramatic second-half comeback as they condemned Colchester United to a 3-2 defeat at the JobServe Community Stadium, despite being two goals behind at half-time.
Tom Eastman and Courtney Senior fired the hosts into a two-goal lead heading into the interval but Mansfield returned for the second-half with only one task at hand.
Nicky Ajose initially pulled one back for the Stags before both Tyler Walker and CJ Hamilton notched a goal apiece to complete the turnaround in superb style.
David Flitcroft named an unchanged lineup following Tuesday’s win over Crawley Town.
The only alteration occurred on the substitute’s bench as Matt Preston, returning from suspension, replaced Omari Sterling-James.
In bitter conditions at the JobServe Community Stadium it was the hosts who seemed more likely to find the opener.
Harry Pell hooked a half-volley clear of the bar as the U’s took charge from the offset.
Sammie Szmodics then met Frank Nouble’s cross inside a crowded Mansfield penalty area but was thwarted by Jordan Smith’s superb reflex save.
The early warning signs seemed to spark the Stags into life as Ajose struck the upright down the opposite end with a close-range header.
However, in the 15th minute, Mansfield had not heeded their warning signs enough.
A whipped set-piece delivery caused momentary confusion and it allowed the ball to fall kindly for Eastman – who was tasked with the easy job of prodding home from four yards.
Smith was then called into action again as he scrambled across to clear Brennan Dickenson’s cross-cum-shot that seemed destined for the top corner.
The visitors threatened to find their attacking groove after conceding early on.
Jorge Grant and Jacob Mellis linked up on the edge of Colchester’s area, only for it to break down at the last, before Ajose had possession nicked as he lined up an effort at Rene Gilmartin’s goal.
But for all of the Stags’ effort seeking a reply, they were dealt another blow on the half-hour mark.
Senior drove at the heart of the visiting defence and, after being afforded too much room, the forward was able to find the bottom corner with a neat finish.
With five minutes left of the half Mansfield threatened yet again.
Walker latched onto a soft clearance from Luke Prosser but found his effort, which was goalbound, blocked.
Seconds later, Mal Benning’s penchant for spectacular goals looked to come to fruition. His outside-of-the-boot effort had to be touched wide by Gilmartin to leave Mansfield to settle for a corner.
The subsequent set-piece was recycled and Ryan Sweeney could only divert the ball wide with his head.
It marked the end to a disappointing first half for the Yellows.
And less than a minute into the second half, Szmodics could have made it three. He met Mikael Mandron’s cross from the far side but powered a header off-target.
Mansfield again responded well to the danger, except this time they made it count on 51 minutes.
After a succession of corners, a teasing cross from the far side traversed to the back post allowing Ajose to notch his first goal in a Mansfield colours and spark the Stags' faithful into collective noise.
The Stags’ goalscorer quickly sought for his brace as Gilmartin’s hurried clearance fell to the feet of the on-loan frontman. With his back to goal he had no time for a shot and the chance that initially looked golden, fell by the wayside.
And in the 64th minute the away following had even more reason to celebrate following a crisp interchange of passes.
Walker found himself on the scoresheet for the second consecutive match – coolly slotting home a pull-back from Grant to level up proceedings.
The game showed no signs of easing up following the Stags’ leveller.
Colchester had a penalty appeal waved away minutes before Mansfield dramatically completed their second-half comeback on 79 minutes.
Ajose had time and space to pick out Hamilton’s surging, late run in the middle, and with no hesitation, he poked the ball beyond an on-rushing Gilmartin to send the 426 away fans into raptures.
Flitcroft’s side had reaped the rewards of a bold second-half showing as they had little over ten minutes left to stay resolute.
With the U’s pressuring, Prosser’s downward header was held by Smith to alleviate pressure from his back-line.
Hayden White was replaced by Will Atkinson in added time after suffering a injury and requiring a stretcher; a blemish in what was otherwise a perfect day for Flitcroft’s charges.
The Stags’ on-loan goalkeeper then clawed away a cross that was creeping underneath his crossbar – winning a foul in the process.
Colchester continued their assault towards goal but it would not tell as Mansfield held firm to secure three stunning points in Essex.
The Stags return to action in a week’s time when they face Tranmere Rovers at One Call Stadium.
STAGS XI: Smith (GK), White (Atkinson 90+6'), Benning, Pearce ©, Bishop, Mellis, Sweeney, Walker, Ajose (Preston 82’), Hamilton, Grant (Rose 87’).
SUBS NOT USED: Logan (GK), Khan, Graham, A. Smith.
COLCHESTER XI: Gilmartin (GK), Jackson, Lapslie (Ogedi-Uzokwe 81’), Prosser, Senior (Comley 72’), Pell, Szmodics, Dickenson (Vincent-Young 67’), Eastman, Mandron, Nouble.
SUBS NOT USED: Barnes (GK), Wright, Gondoh, Kensdale.
REFEREE: Brett Huxtable.
ASSISTANTS: Paul Yates & Callum Walchester.
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Andrew Williams.
ATTENDANCE: 3,546 (426 away).