Tyler Walker lifted Mansfield Town up to third in Sky Bet League Two after his late, solitary strike secured a 1-0 victory over Crawley Town on Tuesday evening.
Mansfield dominated proceedings at One Call Stadium but it took until the final moments to secure victory – and it was the least they deserved.
Hayden White’s persistence down the right flank paid dividends in the 88th minute as his near-post cross was met by Walker who fired the ball home to revert his side back to winning ways.
There were three changes enforced by David Flitcroft for the evening’s clash with Crawley.
Neal Bishop returned from suspension, with the newly-signed pair of Jorge Grant and Nicky Ajose accounting for the remainder of the changes.
And it was almost the perfect start for the latter. Jacob Mellis released the Charlton loanee but was thwarted by the legs of Glenn Morris inside two minutes.
The hosts were zipping the ball around with purpose but Crawley themselves were not without threat.
Mark Connolly struck Jordan Smith’s upright with a powerful header just minutes before Ollie Palmer had a volley, which found the back of the net, ruled out for a foul seconds prior.
Mansfield then responded with an attack of their own. Bishop’s drive towards goal was spilled by Morris but neither Ajose or Tyler Walker could capitalise.
Jorge Grant began to join in the action, too. His deft flick was just inches away from reaching the boot of Walker inside the six-yard-box.
The attacking midfielder, on loan from Nottingham Forest, then chipped a delightful ball towards Hamilton; who could only find the roof of Morris’ net with his lob.
A crisp move just minutes before the interval looked to bore fruit but Grant was denied a debut goal, once more, by the legs of the Crawley shot-stopper.
With once last attack of the first-half, the hosts were unable to profit from their first corner of the match as it fizzled out to the sound of the referee’s whistle.
Flitcroft’s side picked up where they left off after the restart. Mellis combined well with Ajose on the edge of the Crawley area but to no avail.
Ajose then skewed a long-distance attempt wide of the target before Grant’s through-ball was well claimed by Morris.
And in the 53rd minute, the Stags’ faithful were left bewildered.
Walker’s square ball beat the Reds’ back-line and found Ajose lurking at the far post – however, the on-loan striker could only steer his effort clear of the bar.
The duo sought to combine from similar positions yet again on the hour mark, yet Connolly was on hand to hook away the imminent danger.
Moments later, Mellis drilled a bouncing ball towards goal and, as it looked to be heading towards goal, it was touched over by Morris.
The Yellows continued to go hammer and tongs at the Crawley defence – the latest attempt falling off target from Hamilton – but almost found themselves behind on 70 minutes.
Dominic Poleon latched onto a reverse pass from Panutche Camara but was denied the opener superbly by Smith.
Following this chance, Flitcroft opted for his first and only change of the night; Danny Rose replacing Ajose.
Walker then flashed a smart effort inches wide of the Crawley target as it seemed the hosts could not get any closer to opening their account.
The home side, soon after, had penalty appeals waved away after what seemed to be a nudge on Stags’ skipper, Krystian Pearce.
But for all of Mansfield’s hard work, it was so nearly undone with four minutes remaining on the clock.
Ollie Palmer looked to curl an effort beyond Smith, but an unbelievable sliding challenge from Bishop took the pace off and allowed the Stags’ ‘keeper to tip it away to safety.
And this vital moment was made even more so just two minutes thereafter.
White linked up with teammate Walker and, as the One Call crackled into collective noise, the on-loan striker beat Morris to move his side back into the automatic promotion spots in Sky Bet League Two.
Flitcroft’s charges now have three days to recharge before they make the journey to face promotion-rivals Colchester United.
STAGS XI: Smith (GK), White, Benning, Pearce ©, Bishop, Mellis, Sweeney, Walker, Ajose (Rose 72’), Hamilton, Grant.
SUBS NOT USED: Logan (GK), Khan, Atkinson, Sterling-James, Graham, Smith.
CRAWLEY XI: Morris (GK), Young (Sesay 81’), Payne, Connolly, Palmer, Poleon (Grego-Cox 90’), Gambin (Camara 67’), Francomb, Maguire, Dallison, Morais ©.
SUBS NOT USED: Mersin (GK), Nathaniel-George, Bulman.
REFEREE: Martin Coy.
ASSISTANTS: Stephen Wade & Matthew Jones.
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Ross Joyce.
ATTENDANCE: 3,739 (24 away).