Stags and Stockport were unable to produce a goal in a tight first half at a sodden One Call Stadium this afternoon.
Matt Green had a one-on-one chance saved by keeper Lewis King in the only real chance of a half hampered by some strange calls from referee Amy Fearn who incensed the home fans and players.
Stags almost scored in the opening seconds. Howell immediately put Green in space on the right and he floated the ball to the far post where Smith rose to nod it wide.
O’Neill was booked for slicing down Mainwaring with a late tackle on the touchline on three minutes, the Stockport man reacting angrily and shoving O’Neill, Howell stepping in to break them up.
Howell tried to slip Green clean through on seven minutes. With Piergianni pulling his shirt, play was allowed to continue and keeper King eventually spread himself to block Green’s low finish.
The game erupted on 15 minutes as both sides squared up following two bad tackle.
First Smith seemed to jump in two-footed on Sheridan, leaving him in agony, and no foul was called.
Almost inevitably the other side quickly took their own retribution and Nolan scythed down Murray, sparking the shoving contest. In the end no cards were shown when the dust had settled.
There was a hold-up for treatment to Geohaghon after he took a blow to the head. Stags had to play on with 10 minutes as the big centre half was patched up on the touchline.
Howells set Green scampering away down the left on 27 minutes, the striker checking inside but then shooting tamely into the sidenetting with better options arriving.
Then Briscoe was well over from 20 yards from Green’s lay-back as Stags continued to look the more menacing.
Two more successive home corners doubled Mansfield’s flag kick tally, but neither saw King tested.
On 35 minutes Rhead’s flick saw Green get to the by-line and then trick his way past a defender, appeared to be nudged off balance en route by Connor and, unable to stay up, finally tumbled. But the referee refused penalty appeals.
A swift Stockport break caught Mansfield short on 39 minutes only for Nolan’s final ball in to sail too high over the head of the waiting Hattersley, who had taken up a great position in the centre.
As half-time approached, Mansfield won three successive corners. O’Neill’s delivery was poor on the first two but, from the third, he found Riley sliding in at the back post, the defender only able to turn the ball into the sidenetting.
Amy Fearn had upset the home fans on more than one occasion with her decision-making.
But Stags had real issues with her a minute into stoppage time. Murray was clattered as he laid the ball to Rhead, whose instant first time flick had Green in on goal at the same time as the referee was whistling and bringing the game back for the foul on Murray.
Mansfield were incensed, Howell being shown a yellow card and home boss Paul Cox arguing the decision with her as they walked off for the half-time break at the end of a 45 minutes short on chances.