The battle of the promoted sides ended honours even as resilient Mansfield Town came away from Newport County with a hard-earned 1-1 draw in a game that ended with 10-a-side this afternoon.
Stags had the best chances of a fiery first half as Ben Hutchinson shot just wide and home keeper Lenny Pidgeley made two great saves to thwart Matt Rhead and Sam Clucas.
But a moment of poor defending from a corner allowed Chris Zebrowski to steal the Exiles a 1-0 interval lead in a ill-tempered half which often threatened to spill over.
In a less eventful second half, Stags were finally level when Sam Clucas netted his second goal in as many games from close range on 67 minutes.
Referee Dave Phillips angered Stags boss Paul Cox with some of his decisions, but there were no doubts he got one right when Lee Minshull was red-carded for his elbow on Martin Riley on 75 minutes.
However, the official evened things up five minutes later when Matt Rhead earned his second yellow card of the game.
But Stags will be still have been delighted to leave a hostile away venue with a point and a first goal away to Newport in four games after three successive defeats there in three years without scoring. It was also a fifth game unbeaten for Mansfield.
Earlier, Rhead had been rewarded for his goal and fine second half display against Dagenham and Redbridge last Saturday with a starting place.
The big striker replaced Ollie Palmer, who suffered concussion last weekend, but was fit enough to take a place on the bench.
James Jennings, who hurt his ankle in the same game and hadn’t trained all week, was also passed fit to keep his place in the starting XI.
Newport, with a lengthy injury list, could only name six substitutes, but the starting XI included Adam Chapman, who played his part in Stags’ promotion push last season on loan from Oxford United, as well as ex-Mansfield defender Tom Naylor, who is on loan at Rodney Parade from Derby County.
The afternoon began with a minute’s applause for four home supporters who had passed away.
Rhead was involved in a couple of early bruising challenges with home defenders.
But the Exiles won an early corner which saw Jennings miscue his clearance and grateful to see Marriott prevent it going into his own net.
Clucas led Stags’ first attack of the day down the right and drilled in a hard, low cross aimed for the incoming Jennings, Pipe doing well to stop it reaching him.
Rhead rose to head clear a stunning first long throw by Chapman from the right as Newport resumed their offensive.
McGuire’s late tackle on Pipe earned him a seventh minute booking and set up a well-placed central free kick for Newport, 20 yards from goal. However, Willmott was well over the top with his set piece attempt.
Stags came far closer on 12 minutes when Rhead stooped to guide a header towards Clucas from a long kick upfield, and he in turn fed Hutchinson for a low finish inches wide.
Home danger man Jolley reminded Stags of his capabilities soon after as he teased on the right before cutting inside, making space and then firing a disappointing finish wide.
Clucas was well off target with a powerful header from Dempster’s ball in after another good spell of Mansfield pressure.
McGuire was fouled on several occasions in the thick of things, angering Paul Cox, before Jolley was finally yellow-carded for his challenge on the all-action midfielder.
A promising home move ended with Minshull tamely sidefooting the ball to Marriott, caught in two minds between a shot and low cross.
Clucas almost unlocked the Newport defence on 24 minutes with the best chance of the game.
He did superbly well to control McGuire’s long, high forward ball to create the chance but, with only Pidgeley to beat, saw the keeper make a superb parry.
As the game was held up for a head injury to Minshull, both sides went across to the benches for water where McGuire became involved in a heated exchange with the home bench who were shouting and gesticulating at him.
Both sets of players became involved before it all calmed down again.
In a tinderbox atmosphere, the game restarted and within a couple of minutes the home side went ahead.
It stemmed from poor marking by the visitors from a left wing Chapman corner which Zebrowski was allowed to meet unchallenged with a powerful header that gave Marriott no chance.
Newport cleared a Jennings corner at the second attempt as Mansfield sought a quick reply.
Then on 33 minutes Clucas did well to win the ball in the box and roll a pass to Rhead, whose low first time shot wasn’t far wide of the far post.
Two minutes later Hutchinson’s far post cross picked out Rhead and Pidgley did superbly well again to turn over his powerful header.
Jennings corner and subsequent long throw were then cleared as the Exiles held onto their advantage.
Dempster was wide with a header from Jennings’ free kick.
An ill-tempered half ended with Minshull taking another bang to his head in a challenge with Rhead and then Minshull clashed with Hutchinson right on the whistle with home boss Justin Edinburgh having to separate the pair.
Mansfield won an early second half corner, Pidgeley confidently punching clear as Clements flag kick swung inwards.
The home side hit back with two corners which were cleared.
Jackson was then booked for kicking the ball away after Mansfield were awarded a 58th minute free kick, Rhead joining him in the book seconds later for dissent.
On 64 minutes Stags went 4-4-2 with Palmer replacing Beevers and Clucas switching to the wing.
Zebrowski was well over with a mistimed finish that looped over in what by now had become a much tamer second half.
But within three minutes Clucas had stolen a 67th minute equaliser.
Hutchinson curled over a corner from the left into the danger zone which came off a home defender towards his own goal where Clucas applied the finishing touch from close range.
Zebrowski’s shot on the turn from 20 yards warmed Marriott’s hands two minutes later, but the keeper safely held on.
Dempster hauled down sub Washington on 71 minutes to earn the game’s fifth yellow card.
Clucas almost got in again soon after from Palmer’s flick, but Worley stretched to get in an important block.
Meikle replaced Hutchinson, booed from the field by the home fans, before the game exploded again a minute later when the abrasive Minshull sent his elbow into the face of Riley.
An immediate red card was produced and the Welsh fans applauded Minshull from the field and booed Riley as he got up after a lengthy spell of treatment.
The 10 men of Newport gamely won a couple of corners on 79 minutes.
When the second was half-cleared and Worley took possession, Rhead’s mistimed tackle saw him bring the Newport man down and, having already been booked, the referee was quick to even up the numbers and Rhead was off.
Pidgeley had to dive to his left to grab a dangerously bouncing 20 yard free kick from Clements with the game now anyone’s.
Riley held onto the ball too long in stoppage time and was dispossessed by Washington, his subsequent trip seeing the Stags man take a cheap booking.
But Stags saw out the four minutes of added time in comfort to take home a hard-earned point from over the border.
NEWPORT: Pidgeley, Pipe, Hughes, Chapman (Burge 84), Minshull, Zebrowski, Willmott (Flynn 76), Jackson, Naylor, Worley, Jolley (Washington 69). Subs not used: Yakubu, Crow, Stephens. STAGS: Marriott; Sutton, Dempster, Riley; Beevers (Palmer 64), Clements, Hutchinson (Meikle 74), McGuire, Jennings; Rhead. Clucas. Subs not used: Stevenson, Howell, Andrew, Daniel, Mitchell. REFEREE: Dave Phillips of West Sussex.
ATTENDANCE: 3,709 (212 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Sam Clucas.