MAGNIFICENT Mansfield Town extended their winning run to five games but were made to fight all the way to snatch a five goal thriller at Barrow this afternoon.
It was the first time since October 1991, in the promotion-winning season, that Mansfield have won five on the bounce.
But Barrow, who have already taken the scalps of Wrexham and Fleetwood at home this season, twice came from behind to level goals from Matt Green and Ben Futcher before Lindon Meikle showed his sensational pace to grab a winner nine minutes from the end of an absorbing contest.
Stags had not won at Barrow since relegation from the League, indeed their last win at Holker Street was back in 1969.
The run of clean sheets may be over, but Stags know this was their stiffest test of the five game run and few sides will score three at Barrow and take all three points this season.
Matt Green’s sixth goal of the season gave Mansfield a great start after just four minutes.
But Barrow piled on the pressure and Louis Almond’s 26th minute equaliser was deserved for the player and his team.
However, within three minutes Ben Futcher nodded home his first goal for the club from a corner to restore Stags’ slender advantage. The home side hit back to level again early in the second period, before Meikle’s first goal for the club extended Mansfield’s winning run.
After heavy overnight rain and morning showers, the game kicked-off in sunshine.
Murray was felled in Stags’ opening raid, Briscoe drilling an ambitious 35 yard free kick well over the bar.
But Green continued his superb scoring run with the opener after just four minutes.
Murray dinked an inviting ball into Green’s path in the box and, the control he showed on his chest with his first touch set him up perfectly to crash an unstoppable half-volley past a helpless Hurst.
Barrow hit back with a corner which Marriott, wearing a striking pink outfit, came for and collected.
Smith was well wide from 40 yards as the Bluebirds sought a route back into the game.
Green again looked menacing as he ran into the home box and tried to set up Dyer, Moyo doing well to intercept and clear.
A mix-up between Marriot and Sutton led to the defender conceding an unnecessary corner.
From that Owen stole in late at the far post but couldn’t get his header on target and Barrow worked the ball back to Smith whose vicious low shot found Marriott perfectly placed.
Smith was also too high as he whipped in a dipping free kick from distance on the left, Marriott watching the ball sail over the far angle.
O’Neill was caught in possession in his own box when he should have cleared Barrow’s third corner which allowed Rutherford to pick out the imposing figure of Quinn at the far post whose header found the sidenetting.
Barrow were asking questions now and Mackreth wasn’t too far off with his rasping drive, then an Almond shot was deflected with Marriott rooted to force corner number five.
Marriott was back in action to keep out a good effort from Rutherford who had cut in from the right to fire a left-footed shot on target.
Almond’s persistence saw him get through two tackles to lift an 18 yard shot just over as the home fans began to warm loudly to their players’ efforts.
The inevitable then happened on 26 minutes as Almond got his reward with a low shot from 20 yards from Boyes’ pass that zipped across Marriott and inside the far post.
It was the first goal Stags had conceded in 398 of football and left them up against it.
But Paul Cox’s men showed great character to regain their lead within three minutes.
Kendrick floated in a corner from the right which curled into the six yard box and, when Hurst didn’t go for it, the towering Futcher was there to nod home his first goal for the club from close range.
Seconds later, as Stags broke from a Barrow attack, Dyer dragged a low effort across the face of goal and saw the bobble agonisingly wide of the far post.
Almond was denied breaking clear by a very tight offside decision as the action ebbed and flowed.
Another inswinging Kendrick corner found Futcher in the same position, but this time he was unable to get the ball on target from three yards.
Stags cleared another home corner and Marriott was down to hold onto another 18-yard Smith drive down the centre as half-time approached.
Lomax escaped with a lecture after bringing down Green as Stags broke quickly in stoppage time, Kendrick was then embarrassingly high over the bar with the free kick to jeers from the home fans.
But Stags went in with the advantage.
Skelton headed wide as the Bluebirds opened the second half with a left wing corner.
But Mansfield should have been 3-1 up on 52 minutes. Green did so well to reach the left by-line and pull the ball back to Briscoe. As the tackles flew in, the winger rode them but from eight yards lashed his finish wide of the target when he seemed certain to score.
Another Stags break saw Green drill the ball across goal from the right where Hurst made a great point blank range save to deny Dyer at the far post, the ball coming of the keeper, bouncing back against the striker and out for a goal kick.
Stags were punished for not taking those two chances on 56 minutes when Barrow levelled the game for a second time.
Almond was in space 20 yards out and tried a low curling effort which had Marriott diving to his left and, although, he got there, the keeper was only able to block and, failing to hold onto the ball, could only watch on as Boyes swept the loose ball home from three yards for the easiest of his eighth goal of the season.
A minute later Stags won a corner, Dyer heading at Hurst at the near post.
Mansfield wasted another golden opportunity on 68 minutes as Briscoe went down the right, crossed low to the feet of Green who, from eight yards, fired straight at Hurst.
The best football of the game for the visitors saw Briscoe and O’Neill swap several passes on the right before the ball was laid inside for Howell who saw Hurst fail to stop his low shot, the ball passing under the keeper but coming back off the foot of the post.
With 13 minutes to go, Stags swapped Dyer for Connor up front.
And four minutes later Connor’s square pass from the centre circle set Meikle away for an explosive burst of pace that took him clear of two defenders before slotting the coolest of finishes past Hurst for his first goal for the club.
In a tense finish, Stags sacrificed wingers Briscoe and Meikle to bring on Worthington and Bolland and, with Futcher outstanding, they withstood the home side’s late pressure without Marriott being tested again.
BARROW: Hurst, Moyo, Skelton, Lomax, Quinn, Mackreth, Owen, Smith, Boyes, Almond (Brooke 85), Rutherford. Subs: Jones, Hulbert, Baker, Ferrell.
STAGS: Marriott; O’Neill, Sutton, Futcher, Kendrick; Briscoe (Worthington 84), Murray, Howell, Meikle (Bolland 90); Green, Dyer (Connor 77). Subs: Redmond, Naylor.
REFEREE: Tony Harrington of Durham.
ATTENDANCE: 1,244 (137 away).