Mansfield magically managed misty conditions at One Call Stadium on Boxing Day to stunningly overcome a two-goal deficit and beat Hartlepool United 3-2.
The Stags’ sixth successive home victory seemed doubtful before John-Joe O’Toole’s second-half header sparked Mansfield’s glorious comeback into action.
Striker Jordan Bowery claimed Stags’ equaliser shortly after the hour mark having danced cleverly clear of his marker to head home.
Midfield general George Maris thumped home a 66th minute strike to wrap up yet more Sky Bet League Two points for the Stags who have taken maximum points from their December fixtures so far.
Manager Nigel Clough made two changes to the team that beat Salford City at One Call Stadium two weeks ago.
Midfielders George Lapslie and Stephen Quinn were missing from the XI and were replaced by youngster Jason Law and defender John-Joe O’Toole.
Versatile leader Oli Hawkins again captained the side following Ollie Clarke’s unavailability.
Law occupied the space in behind the forward line, fronting Mansfield’s midfield diamond. A Rhys Oates knock-down on two minutes almost played the youngster in before the Hartlepool defence recovered to rob the 22-year-old a dream start.
Mansfield didn’t sit back and Rhys Oates came close to netting against his former club when Elliott Hewitt beat his defender on 12 minutes, but Oates’ header skewed wide of the goal.
Stags persisted to threaten their opponents’ goal and again came close to taking the lead six minutes later. Law’s in-swinging left-footed corner was glanced goal wards by Farrend Rawson, rising at the near post, but the defender’s effort flew narrowly wide.
Four minutes later, McLaughlin curled a free-kick in behind the defence to reach Rawson but this time the defender couldn’t make a true connection in front of goal.
Mansfield’s best chance of the game so far came on 23 minutes. Jason Law’s cross found Jordan Bowery at the back post whose downwards header was agonisingly cleared off the line by Gary Liddle as Hartlepool again resisted Mansfield’s constant pressure.
With the Stags occupying space in the offensive half, the visitors took advantage and struck on the counter-attack.
Midfielder Matty Daly worked his way into the Stags box before his cutback was fired low across the floor by Luke Molyneux and into the bottom corner.
Stags regrouped following going behind and looked to protect possession by working the ball into space. Their patience was nearly rewarded three minute before the break when Law threaded a pass through to Oates who, one on one with the ‘keeper, dinked the ball despairingly the wrong side of the post.
Mansfield restarted the second period as they’d finished the first, on the attack.
Oates’ trickery won a 20-yard free-kick 50 seconds after the restart which McLaughlin powered into the wall. George Maris collected the rebound and whipped a shot from range inches over the crossbar.
Soon after though, Hartlepool doubled their lead.
A lofted free-kick into the box was spilled by Nathan Bishop who then made a superb close-range save which deflected to Nicky Featherstone on the edge-of-the-box who then drove the ball into the back of the net on 51 minutes.
The Stags hit back though and halved the deficit via a well worked corner-kick routine. Maris’ in-swinging delivery found the defender, who glanced his header into the ground, bouncing up into the top right corner of the Hartlepool goal on 55 minutes.
Some scrappy moments ensued in the midfield but the Stags came out on top to equalise seven minutes after their first. Hewitt bombed down the right-wing to clip a delicate ball onto the head of Jordan Bowery who casually nodded into the empty side of the goal to equalise.
Stags, with their tails up and confidence sky high, turned the game on its head by taking the lead on the 66th minute.
George Maris’ corner-kick was returned to its taker by Jason Law before Maris’ effort beat the ‘keeper to magically find Mansfield’s third.
The hosts could have made it four just two minutes later but Bowery’s effort from outside the box was well collected by Ben Killip in the Hartlepool goal.
Mansfield remained resilient at the back to complete their dramatic comeback despite Hartlepool pressure and a late goal which was disallowed for offside.
STAGS XI: Bishop, Hewitt, Rawson, Hawkins, McLaughlin, O’Toole, Maris (Sinclair 81’), Stirk, Law, Oates (Gale 89'), Bowery
UNUSED SUBS: Stech, Burke, Ward
HARTLEPOOL XI: Killip, Sterry (Ogle 52’), Ferguson, Liddle, Odusina, Shelton, Featherstone, Cullen (Burey 63’), Molyneux, Byrne, Daly (Holohan 76’)
UNUSUED SUBS: Mitchell, Smith, Cook, Francis-Angol
ATTENDNANCE: 5,958 (1,010 away fans)
REFEREE: Simon Mather