Mansfield Town earned sweet revenge by halting Hartlepool’s fine recent home form with a stunning 4-2 win in an absolute thriller at Victoria Park tonight.
Matt Rhead headed home 10 minutes from the end after James Jennings had earlier twice scored in an end to end spectacular against a side who had stung Stags 4-1 at the One Call Stadium before Jamie McGuire made it safe in stoppage time.
The home side, who had won four and drawn one of their previous five at home without conceding a single goal, found themselves trailing to Jennings’ 20th minute finish.
Marlon Harewood, a January Stags transfer target, levelled it eight minutes later then crucially saw Alan Marriott save his penalty just before the break.
However, Luke James did give the home side the lead on 52 minutes only to see a miscued Jennings free kick find the net from 30 yards on 72 minutes to level again before Rhead and McGuire completed the comeback in style to earn three more precious survival points for the magnificent Stags.
Mansfield lost central defender Ryan Tafazolli with a foot injury, but he should be fit for Saturday’s home clash with AFC Wimbledon, Ritchie Sutton in to replace him.
Otherwise Paul Cox stuck with the rest of the side that began last weekend’s 0-0 derby draw with Chesterfield.
That meant top scorer Sam Clucas again had to be content with a place on the bench as did Darryl Westlake, available again after a one game ban.
Within the first minute Palmer won the visitors a corner which the home side cleared and Compton turned into a swift counter-attack, ended by a Murray tackle.
The first goal attempt came on seven minutes and saw Harewood hold off the challenge of Dempster at his back 35 yards out and then, spotting Marriott off his line, turn and flash a powerful dipping shot narrowly over.
Flinders came for but failed to punch away Jennings’ second corner and was grateful to see it cleared.
In Pools’ next raid James swapped passes with Barmby to get into the box, but Marriott came quickly off his line and James’ attempt to round him saw the ball roll out for a goalkick.
But the visitors snatched a 20th minute lead. It stemmed from a ball in from the right by Beevers which saw Rhead take the first swing at it but not catch it cleanly only to see it roll invitingly for the lurking Jennings to tuck it away from eight yards.
Immediately James put in a right wing cross for the home side which Harewood nodded on target, but lacking enough venom to trouble Marriott.
After a lively start the home side were starting to make a lot of errors, particularly keeper Flinders, and one poor clearance of his saw McGuire try to knock the ball back over his head from 40 yards but was too high.
But Stags’ lead only lasted eight minutes as great footwork from Barmby unlocked the Stags’ defence. The ball eventually reached Duckworth at the far post who laid back the perfect pass for Harewood, and he needed no second invitation to smash it low into the net from 10 yards.
It was just the boost the home side needed and they suddenly began to look the part again.
The electric pace of Compton was causing endless problems for Mansfield and Dempster took a 32nd minute booking for hacking him down.
More great work from Palmer won Stags their third corner, that was half-cleared and, as it was launched back into the box, Palmer went down and looked at the referee but got nothing.
Instead play swept back upfield to the Stags box where Duckworth went down under Sutton’s challenge.
This time the referee did point to the spot, despite lengthy Mansfield protests.
With 45 minutes on the clock, Harewood stepped up and tried to fire the kick to the right of Marriott, but the height was good for the keeper, who had gone the right way and was able to make a superb block.
In the first minute of stoppage time Jennings was booked for dissent, before Marriott easily dealt with a 25-yard free kick from Duckworth as the sides went in all square.
Duckworth was late in on Howell on 47 minutes to earn the second half’s first booking.
However, with Harewood down after a crunching tackle from Riley, the home side took a 52nd minute lead.
The loose ball was threaded back down the centre to James who turned and fired in a low shot that found the net off the inside of the left post from 15 yards.
Walker was narrowly wide of the near post after Rhead had headed away a corner conceded unnecessarily by Jennings.
On 58 minutes Cox threw on Meikle and Clucas for Howell and Dempster.
Meikle was immediately on target with a first time 20-yarder from a half-cleared corner but it flew straight to the keeper.
The home side made a double switch of their own on 62 minutes before having Holden limp off three minutes later to force their last change.
Jones set up fellow sub Poole for a shot sliced wide of the near post.
Burgess was booked for halting Palmer’s run on 72 minutes, and from the free kick Stags were level again.
Almost 30 yards from goal, Jennings stepped up and curled the kick towards the far post.
But he slipped as he took it and the extra motion the ball got from that slip helped it curl up and beyond the keeper and under the far angle.
Suddenly it was all Mansfield and inside a minute Meikle and Murray had shots saved while Palmer’s vicious strike rebounded off a post.
Then Marriott had to get down to block a low Poole finish as both sides went for the win.
Marriott and the ball ended up in the net on 79 minutes with Sweeney penalised for the push.
But a minute later Stags regained the lead. Beevers swung in a good far post cross from the right and Rhead met it with a fine header back across the keeper and inside the other post from seven yards.
Six minutes of added time suggested a nervous finish for Mansfield until within two of those minutes. Jamie McGuire broke down the centre with United committed forward and saw his right footed 18-yard finish take a deflection and nestle in the net.
HARTLEPOOL UNITED: Flinders, Richards, Collins, Burgess, Holden (Jones, 65), Duckworth, Walker, Compton (Poole, 62), Barmby, Harewood (Sweeney, 62), James. Subs: Rafferty, Franks, Rowbotham, Hawkins.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Marriott; Sutton, Dempster (Meikle, 58), Riley; Beevers, Murray, Howell (Clucas, 58), McGuire, Jennings; Rhead, Palmer (Speight 82). Subs: Clements, Westlake, Daniel, Stevenson.
Scorers: Stags: Jennings (20), (72), Rhead (80), McGuire (90+2); Hartlepool: Harewood (28), James (53).
ATTENDANCE: 2,976 (125 away)
REFEREE: Gary Sutton of Lincolnshire.
STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Jennings