Will Swan’s second-half strike wasn’t enough as Stags suffered a huge blow to their play-off hopes after a 2-1 defeat at home to Harrogate Town.
The young forward notched his tenth Sky Bet League Two goal of the season after latching onto Callum Johnson’s cross, but Stags were unable to add to their tally despite registering 31 shots.
The visitors had taken a first-half lead after an Alfie Kilgour own goal and a Matty Daly strike on 27 minutes and 39 minutes respectively.
Manager Nigel Clough made two changes to Mansfield’s last XI.
Defender Riley Harbottle returned to the side at left centre-half in place of Elliott Hewitt, who sustained a serious knee injury in the midweek loss at home to Leyton Orient.
Stags’ second change saw January signing Louis Reed make his second home start of the season, replacing Kieran Wallace in midfield.
Mansfield started the brighter and carved their first opening after five minutes when Hiram Boateng swung a dipping cross to Stephen Quinn at the back post. The Harrogate defence scampered into position quickly and turned the ball behind for a corner to keep Stags out.
The game was paused momentarily on ten minutes when Harrogate midfielder George Thomson went down requiring treatment and was subsequently replaced by Huddersfield Town loanee Matty Daly.
The visitors posed their first threat of the encounter on 16 minutes through Kazeem Olaigbe when the attacker received the ball on the left wing, cut inside and curled a low effort into the side-netting of the Mansfield goal.
Stags regained their grip of the action and were in again four minutes later. Lucas Akins’ excellent hold-up play allowed the forward to square it to Boateng, who was lurking on the edge of the Harrogate area. The midfielder took a touch and whipped a dangerous effort narrowly over the bar with his left.
Despite much of the play taking place in and around the Harrogate box, it was the visitors that took the lead on 28 minutes.
Harrogate attacked quickly on the break and worked the ball to Daly on the left, who feathered in a low cross which was deflected beyond Christy Pym by the stretching leg of Stags’ defender Alfie Kilgour.
A scrappy period ensued after the opening goal as both sides jostled for possession in the midfield.
Mansfield were again stung by a fast Harrogate break for the second time on 39 minutes when Daly doubled the visitors’ lead. Quick feet from Olaigbe inside the Mansfield half allowed the attacker to break into space before knocking the ball through to Daly, who stroked it past Pym with his right from inside the area.
The visitors came close to striking a third three minutes later when forward Luke Armstrong curled a low effort from inside the box narrowly wide of the bottom left corner.
Stags regained possession for the remainder of the first half but were unable to trouble the Harrogate goal.
The hosts made four changes at the break. Midfielders Ollie Clarke and George Maris replaced Davis Keillor-Dunn and Boateng, whilst Jordan Bowery came on for James Perch in defence and Will Swan switched for Rhys Oates in attack.
Stags were buoyed by their changes and registered their first shot on target of the half on 46 minutes. Callum Johnson’s hanging cross from the right was attacked superbly by Quinn, who nodded a tame header goalwards from ten yards out.
Mansfield were in again two minutes later. Excellent work from Maris in midfield slipped Swan through one-on-one with Mark Oxley, but the forward’s attempt zipped narrowly wide of the left-hand post.
Mansfield continued their offensive effort and came close again on 58 minutes. Reed’s accurate long ball forward found Swan who strode into the Harrogate box before his tight-angled effort skewed the wrong side of the post.
Swan forced anther opening two minutes later by teeing up Clarke on the edge of the box. The captain’s effort was quickly charged down by Harrogate defender Matty Foulds looping the ball narrowly over the crossbar and onto the roof of the net.
Mansfield’s constant pressure finally came to fruition as Swan drew one back for the hosts on 67 minutes. A loose ball inside the visitors’ box was mopped up by Johnson, who calmly squared it to Swan, allowing the forward to poke the ball home.
Stags were spectacularly denied eight minutes later by Harrogate ‘keeper Oxley. Quinn’s in-swinging corner picked out Akins whose goalward header was superbly palmed off the line by the stretching arm of the goalkeeper.
The equaliser almost presented itself again on 79 minutes after Clarke superbly dribbled the ball into the box from the left to tee up Akins, but the forward lifted his effort over the bar from 12 yards out.
Oxley provided another important stop six minutes later, this time to deny Clarke who had driven an effort through bodies from inside the box.
Stags threw everything at their opponents in the closing stages but were unable to craft a late equalising goal.
STAGS: Pym, Harbottle, Kilgour, Perch (Bowery H/T), Johnson, Reed, Boateng (Clarke H/T), Quinn (Gale, 87’), Oates (Swan, H/T), Akins, Keillor-Dunn (Maris H/T)
UNUSED SUBS: Flinders, Wallace
HARROGATE: Oxley, Mattock, Falkingham, Thomson (Daly 13), Olaigbe (Ramsay 86), Folarin (Muldoon 63), Sims, Sutton, Armstrong, Foulds, Eastman
UNUSED SUBS: Jameson, Angus, McArdle, Horbury
REFEREE: David Rock
ATTENDANCE: 7,086 (191 Harrogate fans)