Danny Johnson's stoppage time penalty made it a winning start for Mansfield Town in the 2021/22 Sky Bet League Two season.
Ollie Clarke's cross found Hawkins in the box after 42 minutes, who sent his header over the 'keeper to claim his first goal for the club.
Cian Harries equalised for the visitors in the second half, powering a sumptuous volley into the top right corner from outside the box.
Newly appointed Gas captain Paul Coutts was given his marching orders in the 76th minute following an off-the-ball incident with Danny Johnson.
And Johnson's dramatic 96th minute penalty ensured his new side began the campaign with three important points.
The opening day fixture saw over 6,000 fans at One Call Stadium for the first league game this season.
Mansfield set up in their familiar diamond formation with new signings Olver Hawkins and Danny Johnson leading the line up front.
Harry Charsley and Elliott Hewitt missed the season opener through injury.
The Stags threatened an early goal after 50 seconds as interplay between Stephen Quinn and Rhys Oates allowed the ex-Hartlepool forward to float a tempting ball to the back post which was edged away by the Rovers defence.
Mansfield took control of a lively start with Geroge Maris winning his midfield duels from the get go, to the delight of the excited One Call Stadium crowd.
Rovers threatened Stags' goal for the first time after 17 minutes, but Farrend Rawson out-jumped Mark Hughes to clear the corner delivery.
Stephen McLaughlin's close-range free-kick two minutes later was driven low and hard into the wall.
An error from Rawson gave possession to the Gas high up the pitch after 22 minutes, a trip from Maris earned the midfielder Mansfield's first booking of the season.
The subsequent quick free-kick found Harry Anderson inside the box with Nathan Bishop on his toes to make a crucial close-range save.
Quinn continued his lovely start down the left by drilling a low cross into Ollie Clarke after 29 minutes. The former Rovers skipper couldn't set himself, skewing a scuffed shot backwards from close range before Oates lashed the rebound wide.
Stags persisted to work the ball into advanced areas in hope of taking the lead before the break as Oates' header inside the box whistled wide of the post.
Manfield's persistence came to fruition just three minutes before the break.
Stags skipper Clarke picked the ball up on the right and whipped a curled cross to Oliver Hawkins who nodded the ball over Jaakkola, the Rovers 'keeper who had left his line to claim the delivery.
Hawkins' powerful first time strike three minutes later was well blocked as the visitors withstood Mansfield's intense pressure before the break.
Stags started the second-half brightly as Oates saw his long-range effort parried around the post after 50 minutes.
Minutes later, Oates was creating more problems, driving forward to see his shot blocked.
Rovers struck back in spectacular fashion, equalising in the 62nd minute. A loose ball was met on the full-volley by Harries who fired the ball past Bishop and into the top right corner.
Stags came close to regaining their lead instantly as Kellan Gordon's low cross somehow couldn't be turned in by Mansfield's sliding forwards at the back post.
Attacker Rhys Oates was replaced by George Lapslie after 70 minutes.
Shortly after the substitution was completed, Clarke's ambitious effort from outside the box was dragged wide.
A long ball forward from the back found Johnson for Mansfield who outpaced his defender. The striker gathered himself before slicing a left footed effort into the side netting of the goal.
The visitors were dealt a blow in the 76th minute as captain Paul Coutts was dismissed follow a coming together with Johnson. Harries and Clarke were both booked in the aftermath to the incident.
Gordon's cross in the 84th minute was chested down by Lapslie into the path of Johnson who drove his close-range shot wide of the post.
With five additional minutes the Mansfield faithful willed on their side as McLaughlin sent a wild effort beyond the post.
With two minutes remaining Hawkins rose well to connect with Gordons's crossed set piece but the strikers' header flew narrowly wide.
Mansfield were given a huge opportunity in the 95th minute as a tangle inside the box involving Hawkins saw the referee point to the spot. New signing Johnson stepped up and fired the ball into the bottom right corner in dramatic fashion to send the home crowd into raptures.
Next up for the Stags is a first round Carabao Cup clash at home to Preston North End on Tuesday evening.
STAGS XI: Bishop, Gordon, Rawson, Perch, McLaughlin, Maris (90+1 Stirk), O. Clarke, Quinn, Oates (70' Lapslie), Johnson, Hawkins.
UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Bowery, Burke, Sinclair, J. Clarke.
BRISTOL ROVERS XI: Jaakkola, Hoole, Hughes, Harries, Anderton, Grant, Coutts, Anderson (79' Baldwin), Thomas (79' Taylor), Clarke (31' Westbrooke), Saunders.
UNUSED SUBS: Belshaw, Walker, Liddle, Spence.
REFEREE: Joshua Smith
ASSISTANTS: Marc Wilson & Natalie Aspinall
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Daniel Middleton
ATTENDANCE: 6,346 (1,388 away)