Mansfield Town’s luck was out again today as they produced a superb performance, only to be pipped 1-0 by a deflected effort that put visiting Shrewsbury Town top of the table.
The Stags gave their all against high quality opposition, who had just reeled off four straight wins, in a game of few opportunities at either end.
But the visitors defended for their lives and stole the points five minutes after the break as a Mark Ellis cross from the right deflected up and over Lenny Pidgeley with interval sub Tyrone Barnett on hand on the line to make sure.
It was a sickening blow that left Mansfield suffering a fourth defeat in a row and they remain in relegation trouble with just five games left.
It doesn’t get any easier with a long haul to promotion-chasing Plymouth Argyle next on the fixture list.
The Stags made two midfield changes as Jamie McGuire and Jack Thomas came in for Simon Heslop and the injured Ricky Ravenhill.
The pair proved the best players on the pitch with Thomas twice coming close to a goal and McGuire soldiering on with an ankle knock with some heroic tackling.
Before the kick-off we had an emotional minute’s applause for Stags super-fan Chris Taylor, who passed away last week.
Shrewsbury, roared on by 765 fans, were then first to threaten as Goldson powered a cross in front of goal from the right by-line, too hard for anyone to get there in time.
Thomas was lectured for a challenge in which he stretched for a tackle and left Goldson screaming in agony and trying his best to get Thomas dismissed.
A poor header away by Riley offered Collins a shooting chance on the edge of the box on 12 minutes, but he miscued it and failed to test Pidgeley.
As the game entered a but of a lull, Thomas got the home fans excited again when he won the ball and burst down the left. But the visitors held firm and the pressure lost when Sutton was penalised for a push.
Beevers headed away a dangerous Woods cross on 23 minutes and Stags then defended the first corner of the game.
Riley headed well over from a Hawkridge free kick two minutes later, seconds later Lambe tried to get Thomas away down the centre, but his attempted lob was too high.
Ellis sent a poor clearance straight to Thomas, but his snapshot was blocked.
A loose pass from Thomas gave Shrewsbury the chance to launch a quick break until McGuire steamed in with a fantastic tackle that left him needing treatment.
Oliver headed clear a Grant free kick sparking a home break that petered out with a corner, easily caught by Leutwiler.
The visitors were furious when Sutton’s leg knocked the ball in the direction of Pidgeley and he picked it up, the referee deciding no backpass.
Stags’ second corner of the game came to nothing.
But on 39 minutes Clements picked out Thomas, who tried his luck from 35 yards and forced Leutwiler into a save, down to his left.
The Shrews replied with their second corner on 42 minutes, Oliver again heading clear.
Four minutes were added, but the sides went in at 0-0 at the end of a tight, enthralling half.
Akpa Akpro was replaced up front by Barnett for the second half for Shrewsbury.
Oliver’s persistence in the box won the home side an early corner which Ellis headed away.
But the home side went behind on 50 minutes in cruel circumstances as the half-time sub made an immediate impact.
Ellis tried to hook in a cross from the right of the box which deflected up and over Pidgeley, sub Barnett making sure it crossed the line from close range.
After 54 minutes we had a change of referee which saw a lengthy break.
The new referee’s first decision was against Thomas to the fury of the Stags and home crowd, who felt he was pushed in the back.
Rhead replaced Hawkridge on 61 minutes as Murray made his first change.
Oliver and Grandison went shoulder to shoulder in the box and Oliver went down, but Stags have not had a penalty given in about 75 games and the run went on.
Sutton was booked for his protests on 65 minutes.
McGuire produced another superb saving tackle on 66 minutes as Barnett burst into the box.
A great interception and burst of pace from Elder promised much only for Oliver to be caught straying offside.
On 72 minutes Clements flashed a shot over the near angle from a Thomas pass as the home side kept up the pressure.
The replacement referee was not endearing himself to the home side as he let the visitors get away with a couple of late challenges to no real advantage.
The visitors sent on quality striker Mangan for Collins on 76 minutes while Stags kept Oliver on the field, despite him looking in a lot of pain, holding his arm.
Woods was booked for his trip on Thomas on 79 minutes, the free kick cleared back out to Thomas who blazed well over from 18 yards.
Riley was lucky when he seemed to control the ball with an arm as he edged forward in the box.
Goldson was booked for a body check on the advancing Lambe on 82 minutes.
On 83 minutes Bingham replaced McGuire and two minutes later miscued right in front of goal from a Rhead flick as a chance perhaps came too soon for him.
On 85 minutes Fisher replaced Oliver in Murray’s last throw of the dice, four players now up front.
Eight minutes were added to guarantee a tense and thrilling finish. After two of those Barnett was booked for kicking the ball away.
But the visitors clung on to what they had and Mansfield’s afternoon ended in frustration after one of their best displays of the season.
STAGS: Pidgeley; Beevers, Sutton, Riley, Elder; McGuire (Bingham 83), Clements, Thomas; Lambe, Oliver, Hawkridge (Rhead 61). Subs not used: Studer, Tafazolli, Fisher, Heslop, Fitzpatrick.
SHREWSBURY: Leutwiler, Grandison, Demetriou, Woods, Ellis, Goldson, Collins (Mangan 76), Lawrence, Gayle, Grant (Sharpe 90+5), Akpa Akpro (Barnett HT). Subs not used: Halstead, Vernon, Southern, Mandron. REFEREE: Tim Robinson of West Sussex.
ATTENDANCE: 3,108 (765 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Jack Thomas.