NMAC Mansfield Town had to settle for a point at fellow strugglers Portsmouth when debutant Ryan Taylor bagged an equaliser for Pompey 12 minutes from time at Fratton Park this afternoon.
Lee Stevenson’s spectacular overhead finish five minutes into the second half had put Mansfield in sight of three desperately needed points.
But Pompey, who had only won one of their previous 11 League games, saved the day thanks to a sterling cameo role by sub David Connolly.
The home side had failed to hit a shot on goal all afternoon until he came on in the 68th minute and on 76 minutes he fired in a shot that Alan Marriott had to turn onto his post.
Two minutes later Connolly released Ryan Taylor who then marked his debut with a superb low finish.
Pompey had enjoyed the best of a poor first half in which neither keeper had a real shot to deal with.
Stags upped a gear after the break and for 38 minutes had the lead, only to see Taylor strike to grab the former Premier League giants a share of the spoils.
Ross Dyer replaced Ollie Palmer up front in the only change to the side that lost 2-0 at home to Scunthorpe. That meant Martin Riley and Jamie McGuire, both fit again after injury, could only make the bench.
It also meant no new players still for Stags in the transfer window while the home side had four in their starting 11 and another on the bench.
Before the game there was a minute’s applause for two former Pompey players who recently passed away.
Mansfield threatened first and Stevenson won a free kick 30 yards from goal on three minutes left of centre which Jennings curled up and over the wall and narrowly wide of the near post.
Four minutes later Taylor got a flicked header onto a long Wallace free kick which dipped over Marriott and only just over the bar.
Pompey forced a 12th minute corner, taken short, which Jennings blocked at the near post for a second corner, headed away by Sutton.
Having weathered a spell of home pressure, Stags got themselves back into the Portsmouth half and a 20 yard deflected Clements shot brought Mansfield their first corner.
That picked out Dempster at the far post. But under pressure and not quite over the ball enough, he wasn’t able to direct his header on target, the ball bobbling tamely wide.
Dempster then conceded a foul right on the edge of the box on the left which Wallace whipped at goal only to see Stevenson get in the way.
Rhead then cleared a Shorey corner at the near post as we reached the midway point in the half with neither keeper tested.
Pompey were enjoying the lion’s share of possession and came close on 28 minutes as Shorey’s brilliant pass between two defenders sent Wallace to the by-line. He pulled the ball back for Agyemang whose low shot was superbly blocked by Jennings.
Tafazolli was booked for chopping down debutant Fogden on the right by-line soon after.
The game’s first on-target effort took half-an-hour to arrive, Stevenson lobbing a hopeful tame effort into the hands of Carson from 20 yards.
A long range effort from Painter brought Pompey a fifth corner on 33 minutes. The home players and fans believed it struck a Mansfield hand in the box, but the referee played on.
Three minutes later Taylor wasn’t far over from 20 yards, his effort dropping just over the left angle.
Wallace was then well over from 30 yards with a free kick on 41 minutes.
After good work by Rhead to reach a Dempster header, Jennings played a good one-two with Dyer before lifting a 25-yard shot over the home bar as a poor first half ended scoreless.
Three minutes after the restart Clements was just wide with a low 20-yard effort after Stevenson had been unable to turn and get his own shot away so laid it back for his team mate.
The home side lost midfielder and skipper Ferry to injury a minute later.
But another minute on and the visitors were ahead against all the odds on 50 minutes.
Rhead found Westlake wide on the right. His deep cross reached Jennings at the far post and he headed back into the six yard box in front of goal where Stevenson dispatched a textbook overhead effort past a helpless Carson.
It was just the tonic Stags needed on an afternoon when they had created little.
Rhead and Agyemang both needed treatment for an almighty collision on the halfway line, but both were able to continue.
Howell was added to the book for a foul on 56 minutes.
Pompey forced another corner which Rhead headed firmly away.
Then sloppy home defending saw Portsmouth give the ball away cheaply and Rhead forced a corner, which was cleared.
Clements wasn’t far wide with a first time shot from the edge of the box from Howell’s fine pull-back on 63 minutes as Stags went in search of a second goal.
Home boss Barker made a final throw of the dice on 68 minutes as he made a double change with Jervis and Connolly coming on for Fogden and Wallace.
On 71 minutes Dyer almost settled things as he did well to get a touch on a low Westlake cross at the near post which brought a smart save from Carson and huge relief around Fratton Park as the ball hit the post.
Cox replaced some tiring legs 15 minutes from time as Stevenson and Dyer were replaced by Meikle and Daniel.
It took the home side 76 minutes to get a shot on target as Connolly fired in a low 18 yard effort that Marriott pushed away to his right and was happy to see it hit the post and stay out.
But Pompey finally found a way through on 78 minutes. Connolly threaded a pass through for Taylor in space on the left of the box and he ran on to drill home a low finish under Marriott.
With four minutes left the home side won another corner which Shorey sent in from the left and, unmarked on the edge of the six yard box, Agyemang swung a leg at it and completely missed the ball.
He could scarcely believe it as a golden chance to win the game had gone begging.
Mansfield sent on McGuire for Rhead on 87 minutes with the frustrated home fans booing how long the switch was taking.
Racon was lucky not to be booked for a deliberate tumble over Tafazolli’s legs in the box and a raised arm for a penalty appeal.
More Connolly magic saw a right wing cross reach Racon slice a volley into the ground and off a a Stags defender for a corner as the pressure on Mansfield ramped up.
Four minutes were added on in which time Marriott had to gather a low shot on his near post.
But in the final minute Stags won a corner on the right which the home side scrambled away to leave it honours even.
PORTSMOUTH: Carson, Devera, Bradley, Painter, Alfei, Ferry (Racon 49), Shorey, Fogden (Jervis 68), Taylor, Agyemang, Wallace (Connolly 68). Subs not used: Smith, N’Gala, Barcham, Ertl, Racon. STAGS: Marriott; Sutton, Dempster, Tafazolli; Westlake, Howell, Stevenson (Daniel 75), Clements, Jennings; Rhead, Dyer (Meikle 75). Subs not used: Deakin, Riley, Beevers, McGuire, Palmer. REFEREE: Darren Sheldrake of Surrey.
ATTENDANCE: 14,686 (607 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Darryl Westlake.