Mansfield Town were dealt a 3-1 defeat by Plymouth Argyle despite creating a number of chances at Home Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Stags were made to rue several missed opportunities in the early exchanges when Niall Canavan popped up to open the scoring just minutes before the interval.
Antoni Sarcevic’s spot-kick then doubled Argyles’ lead prior to an incredible Andy Cook volley that looked to have sparked life into yet another comeback this term.
However, it proved to be one step too far as Ryan Hardie sealed the win with a calm finish late into the contest.
Graham Coughlan named two changes from his side’s last outing as Krystian Pearce returned at the heart of a back-three, while Hayden White replaced James Clarke who dropped to the bench.
Indeed, there was also a spot amongst the substitutes for new signing Harry Charsley.
It proved to be an all-guns-blazing approach by Mansfield that so nearly paid dividends in the early stages.
Initially, Alex MacDonald’s carefully weighted ball was met by CJ Hamilton who could not divert his header beyond the sprawling Alex Palmer. The winger was then presented with a second opportunity but had possession stolen as he looked primed to net.
The hosts sought to respond but faced a tightly-packed defensive line – before the amber and blue worked another fantastic opening.
Neal Bishop spotted the run of Nicky Maynard up top, and while the pass was taken in stride, Palmer again stood firm to this time deny the No. 11’s attempted dink.
It was Hamilton who repeatedly looked most threatening but when slid through by Danny Rose, he struck his effort the wrong side of the upright.
He would become even more frustrated, though, as he swept at MacDonald’s low cross without making enough contact to find the target.
Down the other end, the Pilgrims were looking to gain a foothold in the contest and almost did just that with Tyreeq Bakinson’s volley rebounding against the woodwork.
And with two minutes remaining in the first period, Ryan Lowe’s charges made their mark on the scoresheet.
Canavan was allowed to ghost towards the back post to meet George Cooper’s delivery and the subsequent header broke the deadlock in Devon.
Into the second period and Byron Moore flashed his low effort wide from a tight angle before Mansfield were dealt an injury blow.
White, who had only just been restored to the starting line-up, pulled up clutching the back of his leg and was immediately swapped out for Clarke.
Minutes later, it was yet another opportunity that somehow went begging for the away side. Mal Benning’s flicked possession towards Maynard but his measured, side-footed punt was cleared on the goal line by Argyle goalscorer, Canavan.
The Stags’ task was then made even harder when Matt Preston was adjudged to have nudged Joe Edwards to the ground inside the area.
Sarcevic grabbed hold of the ball, placed it on the spot and found the top corner with consummate precision.
Although, in an extraordinary 60 seconds, Coughlan’s second substitution proved to be a stroke of genius in sparking a potential fightback.
Rose made way for Cook and with his first two touches he caught Palmer unaware to halve the deficit with an unbelievable volley, clipping the underside of the bar on its way home.
Mansfield were continuing to search for pockets of space that may lead to an equaliser, including several deliveries via Hamilton that the Pilgrims were able to clear.
A fine save by Bobby Olejnik then kept his side within touching distance on 85 minutes as he touched Bakinson’s long-distance drive above the bar.
However, the hosts rubber-stamped all three points in the first minute of additional time.
Substitute Hardie was released by an instinctual pass and tucked home beyond Olejnik who could do very little as he rushed out to close the angle.
The Stags will return to Sky Bet League Two action on Saturday 25 January when Bradford City are the visitors at One Call Stadium.
STAGS XI: Olejnik (GK), White (Clarke 52’), Benning, Preston, Pearce ©, Bishop (Charsley 79’), MacDonald, Maynard, Sweeney, Hamilton, Rose (Cook 66’).
UNUSED SUBS: Stone (GK), Davies, Khan, Smith.
PLYMOUTH XI: Palmer (GK), Sawyer ©, Wootton, Canavan, Sarcevic, Edwards, Mayor (Josh Grant 87’), Bakinson, Moore, Jephcott (Hardie 69’), Cooper (Joel Grant 84’).
UNUSED SUBS: Cooper (GK), Riley, C. Grant, Randell.
REFEREE: Trevor Kettle
ASSISTANTS: Steven Plane & Paul Hobday
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Savvas Yianni
ATTENDANCE: 10,523 (246 away)