MANSFIELD Town bounced back from their Grimsby blues to take three much-needed points from this afternoon’s 3-1 home win over promoted Woking.
But the visitors pushed them hard all the way, despite having gone behind to Louis Briscoe’s 10th minute strike and trailing 2-0 with just five minutes left, Matt Read adding a second in first half stoppage time.
It had taken three smart saves from home keeper Alan Mariott to keep Woking at bay until then.
But he was finally beaten by Joe McNerny as the game headed for a nervous grandstand finish until sub Jake Speight finally sealed it two minutes into stoppage time.
Mansfield gave a much-improved display in the first half with returning pair Adam Murray and Exodus Geohaghon outstanding.
Both first half goals stemmed from long throws by Geohaghon in a powerful display.
Stags made four changes. Geohaghon, signed from Kidderminster last night, rejoined the club after impressing on loan last season and was back in defence.
Murray made his first start in midfield after recovering from a summer ankle operation and, despite the lay-off, ran the show.
There were also starts for striker Rhead and winger Briscoe.
Out went suspended Gary Roberts, plus John Dempster, Chris Clements, and Jake Speight.
There were early cheers for Geohaghon as he raced across to dispossess Betsy in full flight on the right with a perfectly-timed tackle.
The nippy Betsy then got the better of Daniel to reach the by-line and put in a dangerous low cross which Jones was happy to turn over the bar for a corner which Jones then headed clear.
The seventh minute saw the first Geohaghon long throw which generated great noise and excitement in the stands and was flicked on by Rhead, but Woking managed to kick clear.
But Geohaghon’s next throw on 10 minutes did produce the much-needed early opener for the home side.
Woking struggled to clear Murray helped it back towards goal where the ball rolled off a defender for Briscoe to the right of goal who crashed home a low shot inside the far post.
Sawyer was booked for going in late on Daniel on 19 minutes.
Keeper Howe clawed another Geohaghon throw away for a corner.
Jones really should have doubled the lead from that as it was eventually cleared to Geohaghon who played a pass to Meikle. He picked out Howell at the far post and he headed back in front of goal where Jones was unable to keep his finish down from three yards and saw it sail up and over.
Pires gave Marriott is first test with a curling left foot shot from 25 yards which the keeper clutched above his head.
A superb Murray chip forward was only just too long for Green as he tried to go one-on-one.
Then on 32 minutes, from a half-cleared corner Meikle had a shot blocked which bounced towards Geohaghon who fired a half-volley past Howe only to see Betsy clear off the goal line to deny him.
Howell was harshly booked for a routine foul on 35 minutes. McNerny took the free kick and curled it up and over the wall only to see Marriott perfectly in position to grab it.
McCallum then hit a powerful 30 yard effort at goal from a central position which Marriott easily grabbed.
Two minutes were added on at the end of the half in which time Geohaghon bombed in two more throws.
When Woking failed to clear the second of those, Rhead doubled the home lead as the watch crept onto 48 minutes.
Daniel lost the ball but won it back well and then threaded a pass through the advancing Cards defence for Rhead to stab the coolest of finishes past Howe.
Meikle almost made it 3-0 inside the first two minutes of the second half as he cut in from the left to hit a right-footed shot that Howe had to tip over his bar.
From the corner, Jones sent a powerful header goalwards which was blocked right in front of goal.
McCallum tested Marriott with a low 25-yard effort which took a slight deflection but not enough to trouble the keeper.
However, a minute later on 65 minutes, McCallum was given space from a similar position and this time drilled a higher shot that Marriott did well to turn onto the angle of post and bar.
But Stags twice came close as Murray blazed over from 20 yards while Rhead’s header offered Briscoe a sight of goal, Howe coming out to block his finish from close range.
Marriott made another great save on 69 minutes from a Woking free kick from 30 yards out. Sawyer rolled it to Parkinson whose vicious finish swerved dramatically, but Marriott still managed to get a hand in the way of it and was then grateful to see the waiting Williams put the follow-up into the sidenetting.
A section of the home fans actually booed a succession of misplaced home passes, despite their side leading 2-0 as we entered the last 15 minutes.
At this stage Rhead and Briscoe were withdrawn and Speight and Clements sent on.
Jones headed a Murray free kick on target soon after, Howe there to collect.
Green came even closer on 81 minutes as he chased Sutton’s forward ball, the keeper racing out his box to meet him but helpless as Green lobbed him and could only watch in agony as the ball bounced right in front of the empty net and bounced up and over the bar.
Green then attacked the Cards’ defence on the right, coming inside before dragging a low shot at Howe.
However, Woking grabbed a lifeline on 85 minutes.
Geohaghon’s clearance only reached Sawyer who lobbed an intelligent ball back in over the advancing defence and McNerny crowned a good display by beating Marriot to the ball and firing home from seven yards.
Plucky Woking went for it at this stage and again it was Marriott who saved the home side, getting down at his near post to block a finish by Betsy.
Home nerves were stretched by the news that there would be four minutes of added time.
But those nerves were settled when two subs combined to bag Stags a killer third goal on 92 minutes.
Wright did well to reach the bal on the right and then cut back inside before curling a superb pas off the outside of his boot behind a defender to give Speight sight of goal on the left of the box.
And he didn’t need a second invitation as he blazed home an unstoppable finish across the keeper.
STAGS: Marriott; Sutton, Jones, Geohaghon, Daniel; Briscoe (Speight 75), Murray, Howell, Meikle; Rhead (Clements 75), Green (Wright 89). Subs not used: Thompson, Stevenson.
WOKING: Howe; Newton, Johnson (Doyle 85), McNerny, Cester; MCallum, Sawyer, Parkinson, Ricketts (Williams 65), Betsy; Pires (Sinclair 79). Subs not used: Beasant, Frith.
REFEREE: Anthony Backhouse of Cumbria.
ATTENDANCE: 2,061 (83 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Exodus Geohaghon.