Ryan Sweeney and Omari Sterling-James’ goals proved to be in vain as Mansfield Town were dealt a 3-2 defeat by Colchester United on Saturday afternoon.
Brandon Comley had the visitors ahead after an outrageous, long-range effort early in the contest before Sweeney’s first of the season restored parity on the stroke of half time.
And while Sterling-James notched as the clock ticked into added time, two goals prior from Courtney Senior and Luke Gambin meant the mountain proved too big to climb for the home side.
John Dempster made only one single enforced change from his side that picked up three points against Walsall as Krystian Pearce, sidelined with a groin injury, was replaced by Matt Preston.
And with only three minutes elapsed the hosts were so nearly ahead.
Kellan Gordon’s pinpoint delivery from the right side met the head of Andy Cook, who was unable to guide his attempt beyond the outstretched palm of Dean Gerken.
However, nothing would prevent the opener that arrived in the eighth minute.
Comley received possession in seemingly harmless territory before taking one look and finding the top corner with a thumping drive.
A shock to the system had to be addressed quickly with Mansfield seeking a route back into the contest.
Andy Cook rolled the ball towards Nicky Maynard but the striker was unable to make a clean connection on his first-time strike.
Ben Stevenson then fired a volley towards goal but Conrad Logan was able to safely gather, alleviating pressure.
Soon after, Senior danced his way through a crowd of amber and blue jerseys before striking into the midriff of the Stags ‘keeper.
Mansfield had a period of sustained possession as the half drew to a close – and they almost made it count, too.
Maynard spun and used two supporting runs as decoys in order to force another smart stop by Gerken.
But just minutes later, on the stroke of the interval, the Stags found themselves an equaliser.
From a corner taken by Mal Benning, Sweeney emerged from a crowd of bodies inside the six-yard area to restore parity.
It was a frenetic opening to the second period, which yielded a spot-kick for the visitors just two minutes in when Kwame Poku was adjudged to have been fouled.
Frank Nouble stood over the ball from 12 yards but was unable to find a way past Logan’s superb diving save to keep the scores level.
And it so nearly paid dividends when Maynard had soon flicked a header wide from a promising position.
Both sides’ latest Sky Bet League Two fixture had an already open feel as the levels were raised even further past the hour mark.
First, Cook was somehow denied by Ryan Jackson from point-blank range before Logan pulled off an extraordinary fingertip save to push Harriott’s effort onto the upright.
The Mansfield shot-stopper, though, could do nothing as Poku fed Senior through the middle.
Colchester’s number seven was able to escape the attentions of Preston before notching a curler inside the near post.
In response, the Stags boss introduced Jacob Mellis and CJ Hamilton in a bid to find a second equaliser.
The former then fed the latter, who was able to drill a low cross into the mix, yet the U’s defence hooked clear.
Although, four minutes from time the visiting side had found the back of the net once more.
Tom Lapslie had his initial effort blocked but watched as Gambin was on hand to knock home the follow up.
And while all hope was momentarily lost, Mansfield were handed a lifeline on the 90 minute mark.
Hamilton produced another good delivery – this time it found substitute Sterling-James who calmly rolled home to set up a grandstand finish at One Call Stadium.
Four minutes of added time remained for the Stags to salvage a point, however, they were unable to find another as Colchester secured the win.
The amber and blue will look to put Saturday’s disappointment behind them next Saturday, when they face Chorley in the Emirates FA Cup First Round.
STAGS XI: Logan (GK), Benning, Preston, Bishop (Mellis 78’), MacDonald (Sterling-James 85’), Khan (Hamilton 78’), Maynard, Shaughnessy, Sweeney, Cook, Gordon.
UNUSED SUBS: Olejnik (GK), Tomlinson, Knowles, Smith.
COLCHESTER XI: Gerken (GK), Jackson, Bramall, Prosser ©, Senior, Comley, Harriott, Eastman, Stevenson (Pell 89’), Nouble, Poku (Lapslie 82’).
UNUSED SUBS: Ross (GK), Sowunmi, Pell, Brown, Clampin.
REFEREE: Sebastien Stockbridge
ASSISTANTS: Matthew Bristow and Oliver Bickle
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Lisa Rashid
ATTENDANCE: 4,125 (212 away)