Despite a late goal from skipper Krystian Pearce, Mansfield Town suffered defeat in Sky Bet League Two as they fell to a 2-1 defeat against Crewe Alexandra at One Call Stadium.
After a lacklustre first period that saw little chances created by either side, it turned out to be an afternoon to forget for the Stags.
Following the stoppage time effort from Pearce, Callum Ainley fired home two goals after climbing off the substitute’s bench to ultimately seal three points for David Artell’s men.
David Flitcroft made only a single change and it came between the sticks as Jordan Smith reclaimed the first-team gloves in place of Conrad Logan.
It was a quiet start to affairs at One Call Stadium with neither side able to carve out any opportunities in the early moments.
But the game began to twinkle with life as the clock reached double figures.
Perry Ng, Crewe’s captain, drove from defence with purpose and delivered a teasing cross that was marginally too high for any red jerseys in the middle.
Mansfield responded with a cross of their own – Mal Benning’s delivery landing on the head of Neal Bishop who could only nod the ball into the palms of Ben Garratt.
Jorge Grant then looked to spot CJ Hamilton’s darting run as the Stags sprung a counter attack, but the diagonal carried too much pace.
Flitcroft’s side continued to settle into their attacking verve when Matt Preston, up from the back, was denied a spectacular opener.
Unmarked from a corner, the centre-half unleashed a spectacular volley that was somehow blocked on the line by Paul Green.
Tyler Walker then produced some brilliant hold-up play inside Crewe’s 18-yard box, only to see Ryan Sweeney’s follow-up smothered by even better defensive work.
The visitors, though, reminded everyone they were still not without threat when Jordan Bowery released a curling effort that was subsequently gathered by Jordan Smith.
And moments prior to Green flashing an effort wide of Smith’s target, Hamilton watched as his low cross bobbled slightly too far in front of his fellow frontman, Walker.
The hosts then had several goal-bound opportunities pounced upon by Crewe defenders in order to keep their clean sheet intact.
Flitcroft opted for a solitary change during the interval – Nicky Ajose taking the place of Gethin Jones alongside a slight formation tweak.
And the substitute was only inches away from connecting with Walker’s pinpoint delivery to give his side the lead.
Hamilton then delivered yet another teasing ball into the mix, yet saw it cleared away by a resolute Alexandra defence.
Soon after, Bowery was able to escape the attentions of Mansfield’s back-three only to miscue his subsequent attempt wide of the mark.
Last Monday’s goalscorer, Pearce, was next to pose a threat for the amber and blue as his header back across goal almost fell towards Ajose.
However, despite Mansfield’s continual pressure, they were dealt a blow in the 71st minute.
Substitute Ainley was able to wriggle away from several challenges inside the penalty area, and fire a low shot beyond Smith to place the visitors in the driving seat.
The Stags sought a response and almost had it three minutes thereafter.
Walker’s reverse pass found Mellis’ late, surging run but the midfielder fell victim to an untimely slip as he struck his effort clear of the crossbar.
And on 84 minutes Crewe had their second.
Ainley, the goalscorer once more, was fed possession via Tommy Lowery before finding the far corner with a powerful finish.
Bishop then lined up an effort towards goal but it lacked the required power, which allowed Garratt to claim.
But there was to be a grandstand finish as the game entered its first of six additional minutes.
The hosts were awarded a corner and subsequently, following a goalmouth scramble, Pearce was able to bundle the ball beyond the goal line to reignite a faint glimmer of hope for the Stags.
Otis Khan was then given the chance to become Mansfield’s hero on Saturday afternoon – however, his header that ultimately bounced wide would not have counted either way as the assistant’s flag had been raised.
The Stags’ final fixture in March takes them to St James Park to face off against Exeter City.
STAGS XI: Smith (GK), Benning (Khan 76’), Preston, Pearce ©, Bishop, Mellis, Sweeney, Walker, Jones (Ajose 46’), Hamilton, Grant (MacDonald 63’).
SUBS NOT USED: Logan (GK), Tomlinson, Turner, A. Smith.
CREWE XI: Garratt (GK), Ng ©, Porter, Jones (Ainley 63’), Bowery (Miller 81’), Nolan, Wintle, Green, Finney (Lowery 81’), Hunt, Taylor-Sinclair.
SUBS NOT USED: Jaaskelainen (GK), Nicholls, Dale, Kirk.
REFEREE: Thomas Bramall.
ASSISTANTS: Isaac Searle & Joe Simpson.
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Stephen Wade.
ATTENDANCE: 4,675 (247 away).