LOUIS Briscoe was again the hero as Mansfield Town booked a dream FA Cup third round home tie with seven-times winners Liverpool next month as he grabbed a 75th minute winner to shoot down Lincoln City 2-1 in a thrilling second round replay at the One Call Stadium.
Briscoe bagged an equaliser in the original 3-3 draw at Sincil Bank and also made a last ditch goal line clearance to force this replay.
The game beat the Arctic freeze thanks to the help of a hot air balloon on the pitch, largely paid for by the live ESPN cameras broadcasting the match.
And it proved compulsive viewing for the big crowd and the watching TV audience.
Outstanding home skipper John Dempster headed Paul Cox’s men into a 14th minute lead and dominated the first 40 minutes with keeper Paul Farman pulling off an unbelievable double save on the half hour.
But ex-Stag Adam Smith beat the offside trap to level against the run of play on 41 minutes as City ended the half in charge.
Mansfield returned to the field all guns blazing and Farman produced another great save to deny Dempster a second goal.
That signalled another spell of Lincoln pressure which Mansfield weathered.
It was anyone’s tie eventually and after Jamie Taylor has wasted a great close range headed chance on 73 minutes, the guile of Chris Clements and muscle of Anthony Howell carved out the opening for Briscoe who took it with much aplomb.
Suddenly the dream had become reality and now Liverpool’s stars will grace the One Call Stadium on Sunday, 6th January (4pm) for a mouthwatering third round tie.
Both sides had warmed up in style for the tie, being televised live by ESPN, by scoring four goals in weekend victories.
City, managed by ex-Stags boss David Holdsworth, included former Mansfield players Gary Mills and Adam Smith plus locally-born Dan Gray in their starting line-up with ex-Stags striker Colin Larkin on the bench.
Holdsworth was roundly booed as he walked across the pitch to take his place in the dug-out, but took it good spirit as he waved and laughed at his former home crowd.
Green was caught offside in the opening 10 seconds as Hutchinson tried to carve out a quick opener.
City then headed clear a second minute corner as Mansfield asked the early questions.
Marriott confidently punched away the first long throw from Gray from the right on four minutes.
It was then Geohaghon’s turn to out in Mansfield’s first long throw which saw Hutchinson flick a near post header over.
Dempster threw himself in the way of a low Power shot from 20 yards soon after in an exciting opening to the night.
Green’s tenacity won Stags another long throw near the right corner flag which keeper Farman grabbed at the near post.
Then Briscoe made space before drilling a low shot wide from 20 yards after a good spell of keep-ball from the home side.
But Stags roared ahead on 14 minutes.
Clements floated a long central free kick towards the left hand side of goal where Dempster rose to loop a header over Farman who turned to see it find the net off the inside of the far post.
Hutchinson curled a free kick over the near angle from the left hand edge of the box after the hard-working Meikle had drawn another foul.
The referee had allowed a few tackles to go with a word in the ear, but Howell’s wild challenge on Mills on 24 minutes was well worth the first booking of the night.
A lack of communication between Marriott and Geohaghon allowed City an unnecessary first corner a minute later which thankfully flew through everyone to safety.
Farman kept Lincoln in the tie with a superb double save on the half-hour.
Briscoe burst into the box on the right and drilled in a low cross which Hutchinson controlled and turned on to fire a decent shot at goal.
Farman parried this and then covered himself in more glory as he stretched a hand upwards to somehow keep out Green’s looping follow-up.
Stags shouted for a penalty for handball against Gilbert on 32 minutes.
But the referee said the offence was outside the box and Clements whipped the kick wide of the far post.
Great footwork by Dempster on the left by-line saw him manage to cross to Briscoe, whose finish deflected wide for a corner, from which Dempster headed straight at Farman.
Dempster’s free header from the next home corner was blocked en route as Stags continued to turn the screw on City.
However, the visitors stunned Stags with an equaliser on 41 minutes.
The home side were caught out by a long, high punt forward by Gray which saw Smith clean through as defenders looked for an offside flag that never came.
The ex-Stags winger showed ice cool to then lift the ball expertly over an advancing Marriott and the ball dropped perfectly into the empty net.
Smith almost conjured up another two minutes later as he teased on the left of the box before blasting a shot from a tight angle that Marriott beat away to safety.
After being under the cosh for much of it, City ended the half on the front foot, Stags having to defend another corner and two more long Gray throws, as City went in very fortunate to be on level terms.
Sutton took over from Thompson as home right back for the second half.
Clements over-hit the first Stags corner of the half. Another soon followed from which Farman pulled off another great save.
Dempster forced the keeper down to his left to keep out his first header superbly, then Hutchinson put the ball back over where Dempster got there again with a diving header that this time landed just wide.
But Smith caused Stags problems as he tried to turn inside two defenders, the ball rolling towards Marriott who raced off his line but was never going to get there, Smith able to hook the ball goalwards where Geohaghon was well placed to comfortably clear in front of the unguarded net.
Taylor angered home fans when he went down in the box like a sack of potatoes under minimal contact from Geohaghon, the referee unimpressed by his penalty claims.
City were enjoying a good spell now and Power saw his left wing corner bounce through a crowded home six yard box.
Then a splendid Smith cross was just headed away by Dempster to Power who blazed it hard and low across the six yard box as once again no one was able to capitalise.
City soon forced another flag kick which Marriott failed to connect with cleanly with a punch and was happy to see Beevers hook clear.
Needing to try to end this spell of away pressure, Stags sent on target man Rhead in place of Hutchinson to try to hold the ball up.
Rhead and Boyce were lectured for an overly-physical tussle waiting for a Beevers throw which was poor in the end and cleared.
City broke well after that with Smith crossing for Taylor at the far post who was allowed to get in a header from a tight angle that he should not have been able to reach and force Marriott into a block.
The ball ran back to Taylor who again went down easily, asking for a penalty and, on what had gone before, was lucky not to see a yellow card.
A brief home shooting chance was lost when Howell and Rhead got in each other’s way on the edge of the box.
Rhead then sent a tame header wider from Clements’ free kick as we entered the last 20 minutes looking for a hero.
Taylor was almost that man on 73 minutes as he glanced a diving header wide from four yards right in front of goal after Gray had crossed in from the right.
So Stags survived to fight again and Clements’ low shot was straight at Farman soon after.
And on 75 minutes the home side roared back ahead.
A really intelligent pass forward from Clements picked out Howell in acres of space in the left of the box. And, as he was challenged, he poked a square pass to Briscoe who whipped a first time right-footed finish past man of the match Farman.
Desperate City made a double substitution with nine minutes to go, Marriott bravely grabbing a header from a corner on the restart.
Frustration crept in as Power was booked for felling Howell on 83 minutes.
Three added minutes were safely negotiated and the final whistle brought a good-hearted pitch invasion from jubilant home fans.
STAGS: Marriott; Thompson (Sutton h/t), Geohaghon, Dempster, Beevers; Briscoe, Howell, Clements, Meikle; Hutchinson (Rhead 61), Green. Subs: Speight, Wright, Murray, Stevenson, Daniel.
LINCOLN: Farman, Mills (Oliver 81), Boyce, Smith (Larkin 81), Power, Taylor, Sheridan (Robinson 86), Gray, Miller, Gilbert, Mofana. Subs: Robson, Nicolau, Turner, Morgan.
REFEREE: Darren Sheldrake of Surrey.
ATTENDANCE: 5,304 (1,360 away).