Mansfield Town’s dream of an FA Cup trip to Liverpool died under the hail of a four-goal barrage inside 24 second half minutes in their 4-1 home second round replay defeat by League One Oldham Athletic.
With Anfield the tantaslising third round prize on offer, it was the Stags who went in with a slender one-goal lead after Ross Dyer had headed them in front after only 12 minutes in a half in which the Latics dominated possession.
Sam Clucas and Lindon Meikle both came close to doubling that, but the better side won in the end, Stags’ misery compounded with what looked a harsh straight red card decision against John Dempster 10 minutes from time for handball.
It was a seventh home game without a win for Paul Cox’s men who know, in the long run, this Saturday’s home clash with Accrington Stanley is probably a far more important game to their season.
Worryingly star man Sam Clucas limped off in stoppage time as Stags ended the night with nine men, all subs having been used.
Amid a tentative start by both sides, Oldham had the first pot at goal from a move down the left, started by Rooney and pulled back to Philliskirk for a square pass to Wesolowski, who shot low and wide from 20 yards on four minutes.
Murray hooked clear the visitors’ first corner before Wesolowski needed treatment for a clash of heads with McGuire.
But Stags swept ahead on 12 minutes. Daniel fed the ball into the box towards Clucas who slipped Meikle to the left by-line from where he lifted a firm cross right in front of goal from where the perfectly-placed Dyer could barely miss with his close range header.
Clarke-Harris did well to get a 30-yard free kick on target on 16 minutes but Marriott was well placed to gather with little trouble.
The home side suffered a blow on 18 minutes when Hutchinson’s return to first team action came to a premature end as he limped off to be replaced by Clements.
The Latics quickly forced two successive corners which the home side comfortably defended, Murray’s whole-hearted tackle on Smith as the second was cleared raising a big cheer.
Home fans were grumbling at assistant referee Amy Fearn after two successive offside decisions against Dyer as the stadium continued to buzz excitedly.
On 23 minutes Clucas might have doubled the lead as his rasping left foot shot from the edge of the box flew just wide of the left post after Dyer had laid McGuire’s pass into his path.
An offside flag halted Oldham’s next move well before Clarke-Harris helped the ball into the home net on 27 minutes.
Rooney then picked a pass to Clarke-Harris in the box only to see Dempster slide in and shut the door on him.
On the half-hour Tarkowski looked to be climbing as he rose to nod the ball down to Petrasso, but nothing was given and he was allowed to get away a low shot narrowly wide.
On 41 minutes the ball broke in the box for Petrasso who made space for a low shot that Dempster threw himself in the way of.
Oldham forced two more corners as we neared the break with the hungry visitors dominating possession.
Stags forced their first flag kick in the final minute of the half, but Riley’s header was cleared.
Deep into three minutes of stoppage time, Mansfield survived an almighty goalmouth scramble after Rooney had been allowed to head back across goal at the far post.
But they went in with their slender lead intact and the dream still alive.
In the second half, the visitors quickly forced an early corner, but Stags again cleared their lines, soon after Marriott holding onto a fierce Petrasso cross.
Stags had brief hope as Meikle’s poor shot reached Dyer, who failed to get a follow-up away and the loose ball looked set to break for Clucas until Grounds intervened to concede a corner.
Stags almost broke through again on 54 minutes as Daniel sent Meikle down the left and, as he came inside two defenders, they collided and fell, leaving him a shooting chance which Oxley did well turn aside at full stretch.
However, Daniel was booked for conceding a 57th minute foul on Petrasso just outside the box and central. And that led to the visitors levelling the game as Philliskirk stepped up to pick out the top right hand corner with a perfectly-placed free kick.
The game was then turned on its head on 62 minutes as a McGuire slip allowed Petrasso to square to Clarke-Harris to his left, who buried a confident low finish.
Up against it now, Stags made an attacking double change on 67 minutes with Meikle and Murray replaced by strike pair Palmer and Rhead.
But it was Oldham who killed off the game on 76 minutes from their 10th corner of the night which Philliskirk put over from the left and Lanzoni ran in unchallenged to bury a header high in the net.
Clements wasn’t far wide with a free kick on 79 minutes.
But Stags were dealt a harsh blow on 80 minutes when Dempster got in the way of a Clarke-Harris blast and the referee decided he had handled it and pointed to the spot.
That looked harsh enough but the referee then showed Dempster a straight red card and Rooney sent Marriott the wrong way from the spot to make it 4-1 on 81 minutes.
It was almost five as Winchester’s long range effort deflected inches wide.
Stags looked for a consolation and Rhead headed just over while Palmer forced a save with a low shot.
STAGS: Marriott; Westlake, Dempster, Riley, Daniel; Clucas, Murray, Hutchinson, McGuire, Meikle; Dyer.
OLDHAM: Oxley, Grounds, Wesolowski, Kusunga, Tarkowski, Smith, Rooney, Mellor, Clarke-Harris, Petrasso, Philliskirk. Subs not used: Brown, Winchester, Rodgers, Lanzoni, Miller, Plummer, Rachubka.
REFEREE: Sebastian Stockbridge of Tyne & Wear.