A BRACE of goals from Matt Green in the first 14 minutes capped a superb first half for Stags as they led 2-0 at Darlington this afternoon.
Paul Cox’s men were in total control for the first half-hour before the Quakers woke up and started to cause a few problems of their own.
The opening exchanges were even as both sides probed the opposition in the pouring rain.
But a moment of magic from Green gave Stags the perfect start on five minutes.
Meikle laid the ball into space on the right which Green chased and reached.
He then cut inside and, ignoring Dyer to his left, went inside one defender, delayed the shot, went inside another and then drilled an inch-perfect low left-footed finish inside the far post.
Better was to come as Stags controlled play, kept possession and doubled their lead on 14 minutes.
Howell was fouled 35 yards from goal, Briscoe drilled an ambitious free kick at goal, and the ball flew at Green who controlled, turned and steered a high finish into the net off the inside of the near post.
Three minutes later Futcher got up well to head just wide of goal from Kendrick’s long free kick as the home fans grew increasingly impatient with their side’s early failings.
The home frustration was evident on 18 minutes as Bowman left a foot in on O’Neill as the full back cleared, the yellow card shown as O’Neill received treatment.
It took Darlo 22 minutes to have a shy at goal, a loose pass from Futcher allowing Darlington possession and ending with Rundle flashing a shot wide.
A great run down the centre by Meikle saw his attempt to set Dyer clear on goal thwarted by an offside flag.
A spell of sublime possession football followed for the visitors as they completely dominated the game, leaving Darlington chasing shadows.
Briscoe pumped another free kick into the box which came off Green towards Howell who saw his shot deflect over for the game’s first corner.
Tempers began to flare and Murray was warned for a tackle from behind on Arnison.
Then Arnison went down under a Briscoe challenge in the box but no penalty was given.
Arnison grabbed the ball and remonstrated with the referee as players from both sides squared up, the end result being a booking for Arnison.
Darlington at last began to enjoy a spell of their own and Lee was too high with his header from the home side’s first corner, taken from the right by Arnison.
Then Marriott went up to safely grab Lee’s looping header from a long Arnison free kick under the near angle.
Darlington won another corner in first half stoppage time which curled dangerously through everyone, clipping off a Stags player in front of goal for another corner.
This one was half-cleared to Rundle whose dangerous ball back in was punched clear by Marriott. The pressure ended with a poor effort sliced over by Arnison.
Kendrick was shown a yellow card in the second minute of three added on for his foul on Purkiss. Rundle sent the free kick in and Lee outjumped the giant frame of Futcher at the far post but was over with his header.
Seconds before the whistle Kendrick threw himself in the way of a Rundle shot to preserve Stags’ well-deserved two-goal interval advantage.
Boss Paul Cox had named an unchanged side for the third consecutive match as they went after a third successive league win for the first time since October 2009.
They were looking to build on successive Bank Holiday weekend victories at home to Kettering Town and away to Stockport County.
Darlington, who, like Stags, had lost only once this season, included former Mansfield winger Adam Rundle. But the Quakers were unable to play new Spanish star signing Jonatan Sanchez-Munoz as his international clearance had not arrived in time.
DARLINGTON: Russell, Purkiss, Miller, Lee, G. Taylor, McReady, Arnison, Bowman, K. Taylor, Campbell, Rundle. Subs: Chandler, Bridge-Wilkinson, Hatch, Walshaw, Atkinson.
STAGS: Marriott; O’Neill, Futcher, Sutton, Kendrick; Briscoe, Murray, Howell, Meikle, Green, Dyer. Subs: Worthington, Naylor, Stevenson, Connor, Redmond.
REFEREE: Karl Evans of Greater Manchester.