Oli Hawkins starred as the Stags’ number 12 scored and created a goal to help beat Crawley Town 2-1 at The People’s Pension Stadium.
The summer signing led Mansfield’s forward line having been utilised as a centre-back in previous weeks.
Midfielder Ryan Stirk dictated the midfield in the first-half and assisted Hawkins for the Stags’ first goal of the game on 24 minutes with a well-placed cross.
James Tilley equalised for the hosts straight after half-time with an impressive strike from distance.
Hawkins then expertly unlocked the Red Devils’ defence to assist Rhys Oates who slotted home the winner coolly.
Manager Nigel Clough made four changes to the side that lost 2-0 away at Sutton United in midweek.
Hawkins returned to his natural place up front whilst captaining the side. Defenders Will Forrester and Farrend Rawson came into the line-up in the centre-back positions.
Stags’ midfielders George Maris and Ollie Clarke were on the bench whilst George Lapslie and Rhys Oates returned from injuries.
Mansfield began the contest well, trying to utilise their ariel advantage with Hawkins.
A positive start moved Stags up field to win a corner on eight minutes. Lapslie’s delivery arrived at the feet of Ryan Stirk inside the box whose thunderous strike was headed away by Crawley man Kwesi Appiah, diverting the ball’s course from reaching the top corner.
Mansfield then enjoyed a period of possession within their own half with space inside the attacking third limited by the hosts.
Elliott Hewitt, being deployed as a right wing-back, beat Crawley’s defensive line with a determined sprint on 24 minutes to get the Stags in behind the home side’s backline.
The defender held the ball up, laying it off to Ryan Stirk, whose delicate cross into the box was tip-toed past the ‘keeper by Hawkins who ghosted free of his marker to put Stags ahead.
Mansfield pushed for a second almost instantly after the restart. George Lapslie found himself within shooting range but Crawley ‘keeper Glenn Morris was alert to prevent the confident visitors from doubling their lead.
Crawley regained a grip on the game to prevent a Stags’ second before half-time without mounting any real challenge of an equaliser.
Mansfield’s dominance wasn’t carried directly into the second period as Crawley equalised in the 48th minute. Forward Jake Hessenthaler laid the ball off to James Tilley who, from distance, thumped the ball into the top right corner.
The hosts upped their tempo following the goal but the Stags’ defence remained resolute and organised to nullify the pressure.
That was until Hessenthaller’s right sided cross on the hour was taken by a gust of wind, driving it into the top of Nathan Bishop’s post and away to safety with the Stags defence deceived by the ball’s path.
Crawley began to gain momentum until a moment of magic from Oli Hawkins stopped it mid-swing.
The striker’s through ball, struck with the outside of his boot, swerved around the Crawley defender to play Oates straight through on goal. Oates used his pace to gather the ball and beat Morris in the forward’s typically composed fashion on 73 minutes.
Crawley expectedly pressured the Stags for an equalising goal but Mansfield sat in well to limit their hosts to half-chances which were not capitalised upon.
Sub Tyrese Sinclair was gifted a golden chance from Crawley ‘keeper Glenn Morris’ kick out. The youngster collected the mishit pass, dribbling into the box and firing against the outside of the woodwork inside stoppage time.
The hosts then rattled Mansfield’s crossbar with a flicked-on header by Kwesi Appiah in the third minute of injury time to spare the Stags and ensure that the Stags left The People’s Pension Stadium with a deserved three points.
STAGS XI: Bishop, Hewitt, Rawson, Forrester, McLaughlin, O‘Toole, Stirk, Quinn (Maris 69’), Lapslie (O. Clarke 89’), Hawkins, Oates (Sinclair 79’)
UNUSED SUBS: Shelvey, Charsley, Bowery, Burke
CRAWLEY XI: Morris, Francomb, Francillette, Craig, Davies, Tilley (Lynch 90+3’), Hessenthaler, Powell, Frost (Nichols 46’), Nadesan (Grego-Cox 79’), Appiah
UNUSED SUBS: Nna Noukeu, Kowalczyk, Bansal-McNulty, Marshall
REFEREE: Andy Davies