Man of the moment Lucas Akins sent One Call Stadium into raptures as his last-gasp goal earned Mansfield a confidence-boosting victory over Colchester United.
The game looked to be heading for a draw, but Akins climbed off the bench in stoppage time and converted Stephen McLaughlin’s left wing cross three minutes into time added on.
The win was far from plain sailing as Alex Newby put the Essex outfit ahead after 10 minutes with a well-taken free-kick before Will Swan rose stupendously later on in the first-half to nod home an equaliser.
But it was Akins’ header which ultimately proved decisive to send almost 6,000 Stags’ fans home happy.
Mansfield were boosted by a return to the lineup for left-back Stephen McLaughlin and frontman Rhys Oates.
Kellan Gordon and Lucas Akins were moved to the subs’ bench following last Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Sheffield Wednesday in the Emirates FA Cup.
Defender John-Joe O’Toole was suspended after accumulating five yellow cards.
Stags had the game’s first opportunity after three minutes when McLaughlin directed a harmless low free-kick into the gloves of Colchester goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara from 30 yards.
Mansfield had a big shout for a penalty waved away two minutes later.
Oates raced clear of the U’s defence to latch on to a superb long ball from stand-in captain Oli Hawkins, and after being seemingly knocked to ground by Colchester defender Tom Dallison, referee Ross Joyce was unmoved.
Colchester – following their first purposeful attack - opened the scoring after ten minutes with a brilliant free-kick.
Stephen Quinn upended Alan Judge 25 yards from the Stags’ goal and Alex Newby stepped up to steer the ball beyond the defensive wall and into the left-hand corner.
Mansfield almost found a leveller when referee Ross Joyce played a good advantage after Hiram Boateng was fouled in midfield.
George Maris showed first-class vision to spot the advancing Rhys Oates who burst beyond the defence to the goalline. But no one in an amber and blue shirt was able to pounce on his pull-back in the six-yard box.
Despite their deficit, Stags were asking the questions and Boateng tried his luck on 25 minutes with a left-footed sizzler which arrowed into the palms of O’Hara.
Hawkins entered the referee’s notebook on 29 minutes for a trip on Luke Hannant.
Mansfield equalised on 34 minutes through a brilliantly worked goal.
Hewitt received the ball on the right-hand touchline and swung a high, hanging cross to the back past where Will Swan rose magnificently to head against the underside of the bar and into the net.
In the closing seconds of the first-half, O’Hara had to be alert to punch clear Maris’ inswinging corner, the first of the encounter.
After an uneventful start to the second-half, Hiram Boateng swung a cross-cum-shot into the gloves of O’Hara on 54 minutes before Hewitt lashed a wild effort high and wide soon after.
Colchester almost caught Stags on the counter surge.
Alex Newby darted forwards from midfield to slide in Daniel Chesters who advanced into the penalty box, only to see his low drive deflected behind for a corner.
At the other end, Oates twisted and turned on the edge of the U’s box before rifling a venomous effort over the bar.
On 67 minutes, Stags’ forward Will Swan was booked for a late challenge on O’Hara inside the visitors’ box.
Mansfield were the only side looking to probe and in the search for a lead, Boateng released Lapslie on the inside flank, but his cross flew into a deserted goal area.
Colchester though were beginning to look a threat late on but with ten minutes of normal time remaining, U’s substitute Emyr Huws got it all wrong when he lashed off target from 20 yards.
Stags made their first change moments later when Quinn was substituted for Ollie Clarke.
On 86 minutes, McLaughlin’s inviting free-kick from the left channel evaded everyone.
Seven minutes of time added on gave brief hope of a late goal .
Swan was replaced by Lucas Akins in the first minute of stoppage time and it proved an astute and game-changing move.
Moments after coming on, Akins struck against the legs of the goalkeeper after being fed by Oates, but he made no mistake soon after.
McLaughlin delivered superbly from the left and Akins nodded home from the edge of the goal area to send the Stags’ fans into raptures.
STAGS: Pym, Hewitt, Hawkins, Harbottle, McLaughlin, Maris, Boateng, Quinn (Clarke 80), Lapslie, Oates, Swan (90+2)
UNUSED SUBS: Flinders, Gordon, Perch, Wallace, Hartigan
COLCHESTER: O'Hara, Tchamadeu, Chambers, Smith, Dallison, Ashley, Judge (Huws 71), Newby (Nouble 90+5), Hannant, Chesters (Tovide 90+5), Appiah (Sears 71)
UNUSED SUBS: Collins, Chilvers, Kazeem
REFEREE: Ross Joyce
ATTENDANCE: 5,918 (163 Colchester fans)