Mansfield Town 5 Darlington 2, Tuesday 21st February

SHARPSHOOTER Matt Green’s first hat-trick for the club helped Stags quickly banish their weekend Welsh woes and destroy crisis club Darlington at Field Mill.

But the North-East crisis club, in administration and heavy debt, made Mansfield fight all the way, grabbing a third minute lead, quickly pulling back to 3-2 after going 3-1 down and showing great spirit for a side well behind on their wages.

Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s strike set the tone for a tough first half for Stags in which they had to dig in hard to level through John Dempster, signing off in style from his three-month loan from Crawley, and then edge ahead through Green just before the break.

The introduction of Louis Briscoe saw Stags start to fire on all cylinders in an exciting second half as three goals rained in inside four minutes, Green taking his season’s tally to 21, before Briscoe crowned a superb cameo with a goal of his own near the end.

After Saturday’s poor display at Newport, this result was just the tonic Mansfield needed as they begin a crucial spell of three successive home games, moving to eighth, three points off the play-offs with a game in hand.

For Darlington it was a ninth game without victory and they still face an uncertain future.

Darlington stunned the home side with a goal with the first attack of the game on three minutes.

Ramshaw sent a long cross to the far post from wide on the right, picking out Ferguson who put the ball back into the centre where Bridge-Wilkinson popped up right in front of goal to head home from close range.

Almost immediately McReady threatened to jinx his way through the centre with men over either side of him. Dempster couldn’t halt him but Sutton got a crucial tackle in just inside the box.

In reply Smith cut inside and fired harmlessly over on seven minutes.

However, on 15 minutes Stags levelled from a free kick awarded 30 yards from goal to the right of the box after Hutchinson was tripped.

O’Neill floated it perfectly into the danger zone where Dempster happily snapped up a powerful free header from five yards at the far post with keeper Pickford getting a hand to it but unable to keep it out.

The goal settled the home side down and in the next raid Dyer came inside from the right before fluffing his finish, sending a mis-hit bobbling shot wide of the near post.

Ramshaw sent a dipping effort over Marriott’s bar from 30 yards when Stags failed to clear a bouncing ball quickly enough.

Then when Taylor was allowed to run, finally setting up Keltie for a first time shot wide well off target from 25 yards.

When Hutchinson again drew a foul 25 yards from goal in a more central position, O’Neill wasn’t too far away as he curled his kick over the wall and just wide of the left post.

Edwards was almost caught out four minutes from the break when a long hopeful forward ball from inside the Darlington half saw the left back slow to see Ramshaw racing in and beating him to a ball he was favourite to get to but thankfully fire a low shot wide to spare his blushes.

It hadn’t been the best of halves for Stags but they did finally edge their way in front a minute from the break.

Murray’s initial cross from the right was not as sweet as he would have wanted as the ball bobbled, sending it higher than needed into the box.

But Dyer was there first to find Hutchinson and his neat lay-off offered Green a relatively simple finish as he picked out the top right hand corner.

Murray almost added a third a minute later with a good turn just inside the box and a low shot that hit the left post, rolled along the goal line and, unluckily, also hit the right post without managing to cross the line.

Briscoe emerged for the second half in place of Hutchinson with Dyer pushed up front.

And he almost immediately created a goal as he slid in to win the ball just outside the box and roll it to his left towards Smith who wanted too long before trying what was a tame finish that was blocked.

Then Dyer just failed to get on the end of a wicked Briscoe cross in front of goal.

Roberts almost managed to thread Green clean through the centre, Taylor coming up with a well-timed tackle. And from O’Neill’s corner, Smith’s backheader dropped onto the top of the net.

There was a moment’s worry on the hour as Ramshaw helped the ball on to Bridge-Wilkinson who flicked it over the advancing Marriott. But O’Neill was there to kick away before it crossed the line and then a raised offside flag meant it wouldn’t have counted anyway.

But suddenly the visitors had the bit between their teeth again and Stags looked nervy with their single goal advantage.

They desperately needed a third – and it came on 70 minutes courtesy of hot shot Green.

O’Neill sent a teasing ball over the defence down the middle and Green showed typical acceleration to burst onto it and check onto his left foot for a crisp low finish for goal 20 of the season.

But a minute later the Quakers should have pulled a goal back as Bowman, unmarked at the far post, guided a completely free header wide of the target from three yards from Bagnall’s pinpoint cross from the right.

Stags quickly sent on Meikle in place of Smith.

But seconds later the visitors grabbed themselves a lifeline as McReady dribbled his way through the middle of the defence to tuck away a finish to cap a quite brilliant solo effort.

But that stung Stags back into action and when Green pulled his foot back to get on the end of a Briscoe cross, Keltie failed to get a touch on the ball as he upended him.

Greem stepped up and confidently found the bottom left corner, giving Pickford no chance, as a third goal in four minutes found the net in what was becoming a thrilling second half.

Soon after Keltie took his frustration out via a nasty lunge on Roberts to earn the night’s first yellow card on 76 minutes.

Meikle wasn’t far wide from 18 yards for the home side while Ramshaw guided a first time effort just wide from a half-cleared cross, then Marriott had to reach up to grab an on-target header from Harrison as Darlington refused to give in.

But Briscoe slammed the final nail on their coffin on 86 minutes as Dyer helped on a long forward ball and Briscoe beat Pickford with a finish that almost burst the net from 10 yards before celebrating wildly with the Quarry Lane fans.

STAGS: Marriott; O’Neill, Dempster, Sutton, Edwards; Dyer (Rhead 90), Murray, Roberts, Smith (Meikle 72); Hutchinson (Briscoe ht), Green. Subs: Redmond, Riley.

DARLINGTON: Pickford, Arnison, Keltie (Lambert 85), Taylor, Bowman (Rundle 81), McReady, Ferguson, Bagnall, Ramshaw, Harrison, Bridge-Wilkinson. Subs: Nixon, Barton, Hopson.

REFEREE: Rob Merchant, of Stoke.

ATTENDANCE: 1,697 (80)

SCORELINE: Stags - Dempster, 15; Green, 44, 70, 75pen; Briscoe 86. Darlington - Bridge-Wilkinson, 3; McReady 72.

BOOKINGS: Darlington - Kelti 76, Bridge-Wilkinson 90.

STAGS MAN OF MATCH: Green.