Mansfield Town set a new club record of 11 consecutive home league victories by defeating promotion rivals Northampton Town 1-0 at One Call Stadium.
Oli Hawkins fired the Stags ahead in the 21stminute with a thumping header into the back of the Northampton net from Matty Longstaff’s corner.
Cobblers’ midfielder Paul Lewis was shown a double yellow card in the 75th minute as Mansfield utilised their man advantage to control their way to a vital victory in the promotion race.
The Stags have now moved into the Sky Bet League Two play-off places, level on points with third place.
Manager Nigel Clough made three changes to the team that faced Hartlepool United on Tuesday.
Defender James Perch missed the fixture through illness and was replaced by left-back Stephen McLaughlin. Forwards Jamie Murphy and Jordan Bowery moved to the bench as striker Rhys Oates and midfielder Matty Longstaff faced the Cobblers from the off.
Northampton were the first to direct an effort on target. Mitch Pinnock’s cross from the right wing on 40 seconds was nudged towards goal by rising defender Fraser Horsfall inside the box, but Nathan Bishop handled it well to end the attack.
Ten minutes later, Northampton striker Chanka Zimba was played in behind the Stags’ defence, but Bishop again reacted well to hold the weak shot from the edge of the box.
Following a period in which both sides looked to test one another, Stags struck on 20 minutes. A floated in-swinging corner courtesy of Matty Longstaff picked out Oli Hawkins, lurking inside the six-yard box, who towered over his marker to convert the delivery into the right side of goal and fire the Stags ahead.
The hosts continued to head forward after taking the lead, but it was Northampton who came close to snatching the second goal of the game. Following Pinnock’s dinked free-kick into the box on the half-hour mark, the ball dropped to Aaron McGowen, who blazed a half-volley comfortably wide from the centre of the box.
Three minutes later, Pinnock was played into the Mansfield box by right-back McGowen but the winger’s left-footed effort cannoned off the Stags’ crossbar.
Moments later it was Mansfield’s turn to attack when Stephen McLaughlin curled an effort narrowly over the bar on 37 minutes.
The hosts looked after possession in the following period as they set up a barrage of chances towards the close of the opening period.
With a minute until the break, Quinn set up Longstaff on the edge of the box. The midfielder received the ball, swivelled 180 degrees and curled a shot which was destined for the top right corner if Northampton ‘keeper Liam Roberts hadn’t incredibly tipped it around the post.
A minute later, Rhys Oates embarked on a battling run from the halfway line into the Northampton box, before seeing his shot at the near post met by another reaction save from Roberts. That was moments before the ‘keeper spilled Longstaff’s corner in the second minute of added time, allowing the ball to settle for Oates around the penalty spot. However, the striker’s powered effort was again tipped wide by the ‘keeper as the visitors hung on to just a one-goal deficit at half-time.
The Stags restarted the match in attacking fashion as Elliott Hewitt’s cutback found its way to Akins on the edge of the box, but the forward’s effort was deflected wide on 49 minutes.
Three minutes later, a short corner from Longstaff to McLaughlin was struck from a tight angle by the Irishman, almost catching Roberts off guard, however the ‘keeper was able to palm it clear.
Following a closely contested period, Mansfield almost doubled the lead on 67 minutes. Good play between Hewitt and Longstaff worked the ball to Quinn on the edge of the box, who struck it first time along the floor, taking a nick off a Northampton boot on its way narrowly beyond the post.
In the 76th minute, Northampton were reduced to ten men when Paul Lewis was shown a double yellow card. The midfielder received a booking for his late sliding challenge on Lapslie, seconds before he received another caution for pushing the Mansfield man.
The Stags almost made instant use of their man advantage when Akins wriggled into space inside the box on 80 minutes. The forward steered a right-footed effort towards the bottom left corner, but Roberts reacted well to make a fingertip save.
Mansfield looked to use their advantage and control the game to see out their opponents. The Stags set up several late chances to seal the contest. Their best came on 89 minutes when Longstaff held the ball up for Bowery. The Mansfield number 9 set up Stirk on the edge of the box whose first time driven effort was deflected wide.
The Stags showed great experience to manage the contest and set a new club record whilst simultaneously moving Mansfield into the Sky Bet League Two play-off places.
STAGS XI: Bishop, Hewitt, O‘Toole, Hawkins, McLaughlin, Stirk, Quinn (Rawson 90+4’), Longstaff (Wallace 90+2’), Lapslie, Oates (Bowery 72’), Akins
UNUSED SUBS: Stech, Law, Maris, Johnson
NORTHAMPTON XI: Roberts, McGowen, Sowerby, Guthrie, Horsfall, Hoskins, Lewis, Lubala (Eppiah 60’), Pinnock, Zimba (Appere 71’), Mills (Rose 81’)
UNUSED SUBS: Maxted, Harriman, Pollock, Dyche
REFEREE: Anthony Backhouse
ATTENDANCE: 6,678 (935 away supporters)