Two-goal Matt Green was once again the toast of Mansfield Town as his stoppage time winner earned Stags one of the most important victories in their history to win at Hereford and keep the title destiny on their own hands.
Mansfield had let themselves down with a 2-1 defeat at Braintree on Saturday, leaving them the massive task of winning at Edgar Street to keep their noses in front of rivals Kidderminster Harriers in the title race.
Now Mansfield know that, whatever Kidderminster do at home to relegation-haunted Stockport on Saturday, a home win for the Stags against Wrexham (5.15pm) will be enough to ensure a return to the Football League after a five-year spell in the Conference wilderness.
It had all looked grim at Edgar Street as a Hereford side who, despite desperate financial problems, had won four and drawn two of their last six games and grabbed an eighth minute lead through Ryan Bowman.
But Stags, despite losing Lee Beevers with a dislocated shoulder, fought back to level through Green on 37 minutes.
After Lindon Meikle, Adam Murray and Green had all failed to put away great chances in a 12-minute second half purple patch, it seemed Stags’ chance to win it had gone and left Saturday a lottery.
But Green struck right at the death with his 26th goal of the season to send Stags two points clear with one game to play and the 627 away fans into a frenzy.
Stags made a determined start and Meikle forced a save out of Bittner after just 14 seconds, chasing a poor defensive header and getting in a low shot which the keeper blocked wit6h his body, while Green also had a shot saved, before seeing an offside flag up, all inside the first 40 seconds.
But it was the home side who sent a dagger blow through Mansfield hearts on eight minutes with a well-constructed goal from the right.
Sharp played a square pass inside towards Clucas whose superb dummy allowed the ball to run on to an unmarked Bowman who raced in to pick his spot past an exposed Marriott.
Briscoe did well to get past two down the right and curl in a cross on the run, but there was no one there to get a finish on it.
In the meantime, Beevers had stayed down off the pitch for treatment after a sliding challenge on the by-line and was eventually led away, gingerly holding up his right arm, and was replaced by Sutton on 26 minutes.
It was possibly a recurrence of the dislocated shoulder he suffered at Luton and a real blow for Mansfield to lose such a consistent performer in such an important match.
After a consultation between referee and assistant, Green was booked on 28 minutes for something they had spotted.
There was a home shout for a penalty when a Bush free kick was helped on and Jones tries to chest it out for a corner, but a corner was all the home side were given.
At this stage, Stags desperately needed anything out of anywhere. And it was that man Green who once again came to their aid with a precious 37th minute equaliser.
Meikle did the hard work by getting to the left by-line and crossing and offering Green a close range header for one of his easiest, but possibly, most important of his 25 goals this season.
Chapman was booked for dissent on 40 minutes.
Stags were almost caught by a Hereford break, Murray forced to bodycharge Sharp to take a booking and end the danger.
In stoppage time Clucas got in an excellent cross from the left which Stags laboured to clear, Watkins eventually seeing Dempster in the way of his stabbed effort on the line to keep it all square at the break and hopes still alive after a largely traumatic first 45 minutes.
The Bulls opened the second half with two corners, which Stags defended comfortably.
On 53 minutes Clucas was narrowly wide with a low 18-yard effort.
But Meikle really should have put the visitors’ noses in front. Green worked the ball to the left of the box where Meikle was running in unchallenged. His low finish from 12 yards was on target but straight at Bittner who again got his body in the way to deny the winger.
Bush shuffled forward with a promising run before slicing a poor finish well wide.
At this point, with 63 minutes gone, Rhead took over from Stevenson to give the Stags something different up front in their search for a winner.
Murray wasted another golden chance for Mansfield on 65 minutes. Briscoe helped on Taylor’s forward ball towards the skipper, who did well to lift it over a defender but then drilled a half-volley across the face of goal.
A minute later as another scramble erupted, Green hooked a dipping finish over Bittner which the keeper did superbly well to reach up and bat away with Mansfield claiming it had crossed the line.
This was edge-of-the-seats stuff now as Mansfield threw everything they could at a very good Hereford side.
Rhead was well over with a snapshot from a poor home clearance.
A 20-yard Clucas free kick curled wide at the last minute for the home side, then Bittner needed a second attempt to hold a Chapman free kick with Murray nibbling away for the loose ball.
With eight minutes to go, Jones was too high with his header from Stags’ first corner of the half.
With Mansfield throwing everything forward, Watkiss forced Marriott into a save on a break and Watkiss wasn’t far wide from distance as we entered four minutes of stoppage time.
But goal machine Green still had one more trick in his locker as he raced onto a Rhead flick in the box and dispatched a powerful 16-yard finish across Bittner to spark riotous scenes of joy as away fans raced onto the pitch surround to celebrate with the players.
With almost the last kick, Bush headed narrowly wide and Stags were home and dry.
HEREFORD UNITED: Bittner, Connor, Graham, Watkins, Sharp (Jackson, 73), Stam, James, Clucas, Bowman (McDonald, 83), O’Keefe, Bush. Subs: Heath, Jones, Smikle.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Marriott; Beevers (Sutton, 26), Jones, Dempster, Taylor; Murray, Chapman, Stevenson (Rhead, 63); Briscoe (Daniel, 83), Green, Meikle. Subs: Speight, Howell.
REFEREE: Lee Swabey of Plymouth.
SCORELINE: Hereford: Bowman (8). Stags: Green (37, 90+2).
ATTENDANCE: 2,141 (627 away)
STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Matt Green