A controversial penalty kick five minutes into added time at the end of the game saw Mansfield Town’s outside hopes of making the play-offs take a huge knock at never-say-die Accrington Stanley this afternoon.
The Stags looked all set to reel off a fifth win on the bounce, thanks to sub Jake Speight’s first goal of the season on 75 minutes.
But referee Richard Clark decided Martin Riley had fouled James Gray and awarded Stanley a spot kick deep into added time from which Kai Naismith made no mistake.
Stags argued Gray was in an offside position before Riley’s challenge.
It had been a tight game on a bobbly late season pitch.
On-loan keeper Lewis Price was called upon to make two fine first half saves, but the Stags had plenty of chances with Speight having one effort disallowed and another chance, when home keeper Marcus Bettenelli cleared against him, bounce back off a post.
Martin Riley also failed to put away a free header from eight yards.
But it seemed like they had done enough when Speight smashed home after great work from fellow sub Sam Clucas.
However, Stags should know it’s never over against Accrington until the end after they netted two stoppage time goals to earn an unlikely 3-2 win at One Call Stadium.
The draw, coupled with other results going against them, left Mansfield 12th and seven points off the play-offs with three games left.
But it did extend their impressive run of away form since Christmas to four wins and five draws from 10 games.
In the bright spring sunshine, roared on by 662 away fans on the terrace behind the goal, Stags were first to threaten from a third minute free kick. Jennings sent it in from the right to the far post where Riley got a foot to it but could only send it well over the bar.
From a half-cleared Hunt long throw, Molyneux had a shot blocked, and soon after he took a theatrical tumble in the box after making contact with Sutton, play waved on and Sutton left waving a finger at his opponent.
A misguided header from Murphy almost sent Rhead away, Bettinelli having to come out of his box to clear.
Hunt was eventually penalised after keeping hold of Jennings on the floor, the pair beginning to wrestle. Hunt was warned and Stags given a free kick, though it came to nothing as the referee spotted pushing.
From a Stags throw into the home box on 19 minutes, Stanley broke quickly through McCartan down the middle, eventually laying a pass into space to his left.
Molyneux closed in on it but before he could shoot, Westlake made a superb tackle to concede a corner and halt the danger.
On 24 minutes a Clements free kick was fisted out by Bettinelli to Daniel 25 yards from goal, who tried to place it back past the keeper with a firm first time effort that wasn’t far wide of its target.
Jennings tried a spectacular overhead kick at the far post with two defenders at his back. It was accurate but the angle was tight and the ball was straight to the keeper.
On 31 minutes McCartan almost provided the breakthrough when he managed to wriggle his way past some half-hearted challenges to get into the box and rifle a low finish that Price superbly blocked with his legs.
Two minutes later Palmer poked a low effort goalwards from 20 yards which Bettinelli saved low to his right, turning it aside for a Mansfield corner.
Then Murray had a shot blocked as he raced into the box following flicks by Rhead and Daniel.
On 37 minutes Daniel caught Hunt late to earn the game’s first yellow card.
Two minutes later Daniel burst onto a loose ball just inside the box and caught it perfectly with a rocket shot that Bettinelli was happy to simply parry.
It was Price’s turn to make the save on 42 minutes as Molyneux played the ball inside him from the right to McCartan, who turned superbly and struck a fine dipping shot that the Palace loanee did well to turn over and keep the first half scoreless.
The ball broke invitingly to Murray just inside the left corner of the home box on 47 minutes, but his low finish was wide of the far post.
Hatfield then tested Price from the tightest of angles on the right, the keeper failing to hold it but getting his body in the way to make sure it stayed out.
Soon after Hatfield showed good feet to cleverly create another half-chance, this time mis-kicking his finish and the ball going tamely to Price.
Westlake was booked on 49 minutes for getting in the way of the home side trying to take a quick free kick.
Stags should have gone ahead on 52 minutes after Clements curled a superb ball in from the right to the far post.
Riley had a free header from eight yards but somehow managed to guide it wide of the far post with the goal gaping.
Stags immediately sent on Clucas for Palmer.
Molyneaux tested Price at his near post from a tight angle, the keeper holding onto it safely.
Hunt was lucky not to be booked for bringing down Clucas in full flight on the sub’s first run, then Clements’ free kick was too near the keeper, who plucked it out of the air.
Stanley forced a corner from which McCartan flicked a header over the bar.
Then Clucas broke into the home box down the right and, with options to his left, tried the shot and could only rattle the sidenetting.
Stags went 4-4-2 with Meikle on for Westlake on the hour.
Daniel did well to control the ball wide on the right and cut inside a couple of defenders before screwing a dreadful shot well wide.
On 66 minutes the home side won a free kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the D which Molyneux put into the Mansfield wall.
Stanley then won two successive corners which came to nothing as we reached the midway point of the second half with the deadlock still intact.
Clucas put a great cross in from the left of the box on 71 minutes which picked out Clements at the far post where he chose to volley his finish and smashed it wide of the target.
Mansfield did have the ball in the home net on 73 minutes, Speight tucking home at the far post after Meikle had sent Jennings to the left by-line to cross hard and low. But celebrations were cut short by an offside flag.
But two minutes later Speight did break the deadlock.
Clucas was the architect as he dragged two defenders out right and then cut inside them both before cueing up Speight for a superb rising finish at the near post that gave Bettenelli no chance.
The home side made a double change 12 minutes from time.
Joyce wasn’t far wide as he got a 30-yard free kick up and over the wall as Accrington pressed for an equaliser.
Another free kick into the box saw the ball bounce worryingly until Price took control and grabbed it bravely at the feet of Gray.
Riley was in the way of a thumping Naismith drive, then Price punched away a Mingoia corner.
Jennings was shown a yellow card for bringing down Naismith just outside the box on the right with a minute to go on the watch.
It was cleared back out to Naismith who cut inside a challenge but dragged a disappointing low shot wide of the near post as we entered four minutes of stoppage time.
Three minutes into that, Speight closed the keeper down as he tried to kick clear and got in a block that saw the ball spin back towards the empty goal and it hit the base of the post.
How Mansfield could have done with that goal as Accrington levelled with almost the last kick of the game.
As the ball was pumped back into the Stags box, Riley was adjudged to have fouled Gray and the referee pointed to the spot.
Riley and the defenders were furious as they felt the player had been well offside, but Naismith kept his calm with 95 minutes on the watch and stroked home a low spot kick under the dive of Price, who had guessed right to his left but couldn’t quite get there.
There was still time for Mansfield to get the ball into the home box, but once Bettenelli had grabbed it, the whistle blew and two precious points had been spilled.
ACCRINGTON: Bettinelli, Murphy, Liddle, Joyce, Aldred, Winnard, McCartan (Gray 65), Hatfield (Naismith 78), Molyneux (Mingoia 78), Hunt, Odejayi. Subs not used: Webber, Windass, Buxton, Atkinson. STAGS: Price; Sutton, Riley, Tafazolli; Westlake (Meikle 60), Murray, Daniel (Speight 70), Clements, Jennings; Rhead, Palmer (Clucas 52). Subs not used: Dempster, Briscoe, Stevenson, Howell. REFEREE: Richard Clark of Northumberland.
ATTENDANCE: 2,092 (662 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Ryan Tafazolli.