WHAT had looked to be a very Good Friday for Mansfield ultimately ended in defeat as promotion hopefuls AFC Wimbledon came from behind to steal an 86th minute winner in the Easter sunshine at Kingsmeadow on Friday afternoon.
The classy Dons dominated the game but found themselves behind to Tyrone Thompson’s 25 yard blast on 14 minutes against the run of play.
Stags’ defence then stood firm against wave after wave of Wimbledon pressure with Steve Foster and Mark Preece outstanding and Adam Murray the pick of the midfield.
But it wasn’t to last as Jamie Stuart finally found a way past Neil Collett on 68 minutes.
However, Stags looked to have at least taken a superb point until four minutes from time when sub Christian Jolley’s shot deflected in off Brett Johnson, leaving the pair to argue over who scored the goal.
Either way, it was a second successive double for the Dons over Mansfield following that 5-2 Field Mill drubbing earlier this season.
Mansfield’s injury problems didn’t improve as Paul Connor and Conor Higginson, who had come on to replace him, both had to limp off while Dan Spence also ended the game limping.
It leaves physio Jason Truscott with plenty of work ahead of Monday’s visit of Gateshead.
Stags again shuffled their tired pack and out went David Grof, Louis Briscoe, Kyle Nix, Conor Higginson and Paul Stonehouse while into the side went Collett, Spence, Thompson, Luke Medley and Ashley Cain.
It was Collett’s first game in goal since the 3-3 draw with Newport County on 12th February but number one keeper Alan Marriott is expected back from his broken finger for Monday’s home clash with Gateshead.
The home side, with their play-off place already booked, began with eight regulars, but brought in three fringe players, including young keeper Jack Turner.
The Dons threatened in the second minute with a neat exchange of passes between Mohamed and Moore which saw Mohamed eventually burst into the box before being halted by Foster’s sliding tackle and Spence kicking clear right in front of goal.
On five minutes the home side really should have gone ahead as Moore helped the ball on for Mohamed to race clear from the halfway line with no offside flag.
But, with Collett at his mercy and Kedwell catching up alongside him as an option, he got it all wrong and harmlessly rolled the ball to a grateful Collett.
Jones curled a right-footed effort wide of the far post from the left of the box on nine minutes as the pressure continued.
Two minutes later Murray conceded a free kick 30 yards from goal which Hatton fired powerfully at goal only to see Collett making a great save with his fingertips to concede a corner.
Mohamed wasn’t far wide with a low snapshot after Collett had punched clear to the edge of the box as Stags held on in the warm Easter sunshine.
But the visitors had a sucker punch waiting for the Dons as they grabbed the lead with their first attack and first real foray over the halfway line on 14 minutes.
Preece headed the ball powerfully forward and Thompson, offered some room 25 yards from goal, cracked a low finish inside the left hand post with Turner clawing at fresh air.
Medley was lucky not be booked when, after being caught offside, he carried on and put the ball into the net, escaping with just a lecture.
Medley almost fluked a second goal for Stags on 24 minutes.
Keeper Turner tried to clear a backpass with Medley closing him down and the ball struck the incoming Medley and rebounded towards goal but ended up bouncing onto the roof of the net.
Murray’s second cynical trip of the afternoon, this time on Hatton, saw him booked on 26 minutes and Hatton dip the free kick over from 30 yards.
Stags’ Wembley injury worries were increased when experienced striker Connor went off injured on the half-hour mark, replaced by youngster Higginson.
Kedwell threatened to get past Foster but the Stags defender stayed with him and did just enough to prevent Kedwell getting in a shot or being able to find Mohamed to his left.
Moore did well to fend off two defenders and fire a low shot just wide from Kedwell’s square pass as the Dons continued to look menacing.
A brief Stags raid, which began on the right with Cain, saw him square to Smith who drew the defender before laying the ball left into space for Higginson to fire on target first time and force Turner to block his low effort.
A Yussuff free kick clipped the top of the Stags wall for a corner which, when cleared, ended up with Mohamed hitting the ball back goalwards and Moore backheading over the bar.
A fourth Dons corner on 42 minutes saw Collett fouled with Stags struggling to clear.
Gregory was well over from 30 yards as we entered the final minute of the first half.
In stoppage time, with Dons playing some neat football, Mohamed played a one-two with Jones in the box but, as he pulled his foot back to finish in slid Foster with a great saving tackle.
Wimbledon began the second half on the offensive and won a quick corner which Stags failed to clear, Mohamed eventually rifling well over.
Then a short corner on the left was chipped towards Gwillim at the near post who guided it over off his left instep.
On 53 minutes Higginson, who had replaced the injured Connor, also limped off injured, forcing Briscoe into the fray.
Collett had to keep his eye on Moore’s deflected shot on 55 minutes but was in the right position to gather safely.
Desperate for a way back in, the Dons made a double substitution on the hour with Jolley and Mulley on for Jones and Yussuff.
Collett made another good stop a minute later as Kedwell turned a close range effort target from a far post header into the danger zone.
Kedwell showed great feet to turn Foster one way and then the other before getting away a powerful shot that deflected just over.
Wimbledon came as close as they had all day on 66 minutes as, from a right wing cross, Stuart headed firmly against the crossbar.
Another corner followed as the Dons turned up the heat and, from that, the home side had a deserved 68th minute equaliser.
Hatton’s left wing flag kick caught out Collett and his defenders as it sailed over everyone to the far post where Stuart popped up to head inside the upright.
The home side could sense victory but Mansfield held firm after the setback of the equaliser and held the Dons at bay.
Istead came on for the tiring Medley for the final nine minutes as Stags won their first corner of the afternoon.
Within three minutes of his introduction Istead was added to the book for his challenge on Gwillim.
Spence came to the rescue on 85 minutes as Jolley’s header beat Collett from Gwillim’s cross only to see the Stags full back clear of the line.
But a minute later amid more pressure, Jolley’s 16 yard snapshot was on target but took a wicked deflection off the backside of team mate Johnson and left Collett with no chance as the home side nosed in front for the first time.
Two minutes later Collett did well to grab the ball off the toes of Minshull.
Five minutes were added at the end in which Silk did well to block from Mohamed. Then from a corner Thompson kicked a Minshull header off the line as the home side hunted a third goal.
AFC WIMBLEDON: Turner, Hatton, Gwillim, Gregory, Stuart, Johnson, Jones (Mulley 60), Yussuf (Minshull 69), Kedwell, Mohamed, Moore (Jolley 60). Subs not used: Brown, Keirnan.
STAGS: Collett; Silk, Foster, Preece, Spence; Cain, Murray, Thompson, Smith; Medley (Istead 81), Connor (Higginson 30, Briscoe 53). Subs not used: Grof, Nix.
REFEREE: Chris Knowles of Northants.
ATTENDANCE: 3,613 (134 away).
GOALS: AFC Wimbledon – Stuart 68mins, Johnson 86mins. Stags – Thompson 14mins.
CAUTION: Stags - Murray 26mins (foul), Briscoe 74mins (foul), Istead 84mins (foul).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Steve Foster.