MANSFIELD Town threw away more valuable points and lost further ground on the play-off pack when they were pegged back to a 1-1 draw against Gateshead.
It was certainly not what the impressive Stags deserved after a rampant first half performance had put the north east visitors under the sternest of tests.
But, in what is becoming an all too familiar story, Mansfield blew a number of glorious chances to put the game out of sight and wrap up all three points after Ross Dyer’s early strike.
Mansfield, trying out a new 4-5-1 formation, had looked impressive throughout and created countless opportunities to rack up the goals.
But top scorer Matt Green blew two superb chances in the first 10 minutes. Dyer and Stevenson also wasted fantastic opportunities in either half.
And they all proved to be costly misses as Mansfield switched off at the back to allow former Stag Jon Shaw the time and space to nod home a second half equaliser.
The Stags had named three changes to their starting line-up, goalscoring midfielder Stevenson included at the expense of Bolland, on loan defender Dempster given a full debut at the expense of O’Neill and captain Murray replacing Howell.
The visitors had the first sight at goal in the opening minute when former Stag Shaw tested Marriott with a weak shot from distance.
But it was Stags who really should have taken the lead a minute later when top scorer Green latched on to a slack back-pass before rounding the goalkeeper just inside the box.
But with the goal at his mercy, and just one defender trying to protect the exposed goal-line, Green dragged his shot wide.
Four minutes later, in an almost carbon copy attack, Green picked off another short backpass by Clark and rounded Alnwick.
But just as he was about to let fly Alnwick recovered his position well to force Green wide and smother the ball at his feet.
Mansfield, who were using their new 4-5-1 formation to good effect, finally made their early pressure count on nine minutes when striker Dyer showed Green how it should be done.
Excellent build-up play between Murray and Verma saw Dyer unmarked just inside the box. And he made no mistake with a rasping right foot effort into the bottom corner.
Former Stags midfielder Nix fired a warning shot on 14 minutes when he burst into the box only to see his effort well blocked by Verma.
It was a rare foray into the Stags danger zone for the north east side, who were being harried at every opportunity and given little time on the ball by the Mansfield rearguard.
It was almost two on 15 minutes when a rampaging Kieron Freeman nearly fired in an unlikely second with a miss-hit cross, which had to be acrobatically tipped over the bar by an alert Alnwick.
Stevenson, making just his second Mansfield Town star, showed his threat with a bursting run through midfield. He then dinked the ball over the defence into the empty space, but Dyer was unable to loft the ball over Alnwick and into the goal and only found the roof of the net.
Dempster blew a fantastic chance to double the Stags lead on 65 minutes when he diverted a Dyer snapshot over the bar when unmarked six yards out.
The wasteful finishing came back to haunt Stags on 67 minutes when they failed to close the ball down, allowing ex-Stag Shaw to nod home a Moore cross from six yards.
Blowing good chances seemed to be a Stags speciality with Dyer the latest man to amazingly fail to score. Man-of-the-match Green laid the ball on a plate to Dyer after a bursting run to the byline. But Dyer failed to add to his earlier goal as he skied the ball into the Quarry Lane crowd.
Marriott had to be at his very best to keep Mansfield in the contest when he thwarted former team-mate Kyle Nix from close range with just four minutes left as both sides were left to settle for a share of the spoils.
STAGS: Marriott, Thompson, Stevenson (Briscoe 74mins), Green, Murray, Dyer, Sutton, Meikle, Freeman, Dempster, Verma (Bolland 39mins). Subs not used: Redmond, O’Neill, Rodney.
GATESHEAD: Alnwick, Rents, Gate, Curtis, Clark, Turnbull, Shaw, Marwood, Nix, Moore (Fisher 66mins), Henderson (Carruthers 83mins). Subs not used: Deasy, Brittain, Gillies.
REFEREE: Rob Merchant.
ATTENDANCE: 1,513 (34).
SCORELINE: Stags - Dyer, 9mins. Gateshead - Shaw, 67mins
STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Green.