It was honours even in the big promotion showdown as Mansfield Town were held 1-1 by League Two leaders Lincoln City in an enthralling clash tonight.
Stags’ first live Sky TV game in 13 years saw them make a superb start when Krystian Pearce headed them in front after just three minutes.
Big John Akinde levelled matters from a 75th minute penalty to stretch the Imps’ unbeaten league run to 15 games, but the draw was still enough to edge Stags back into the top three promotion places on goal difference.
Both sides struggled to get the ball down and play a lot of football on a night of fire and passion, but the season’s biggest home crowd so far could not take your eyes off the frantic action.
Mansfield were boosted by the return of centre half pair Ryan Sweeney and Matt Preston from concussion and injury respectively.
Ben Turner and Alex MacDonald both dropped down to the bench to accommodate them.
With the away end sold out, the atmosphere was electric before kick-off for the watching TV audience.
A minute’s silence was held pre-match for the victims of the New Zealand terrorist massacre.
Stags were first to threaten on three minutes as Grant spun and shot against a defender at the near post for a corner.
And from that flag kick the Stags were ahead. Grant floated the kick right into the middle of the six yard box where skipper Pearce rose to nod firmly home.
On eight minutes Gilks had to be alert to punch away a second home corner just before Pearce could again threaten his goal.
Stags were lucky on 13 minutes when they were almost caught on the break, Anderson’s touch too heavy in the end just outside the box.
Soon after Pearce had to hook clear amid a scramble as the ball fell dangerously near goal.
On 17 minutes Grant went down easily over Eardley’s foot in the box, the referee deciding it was a dive and worth a first yellow card of the evening.
Logan was down well to smother Andrade’s low 25 yard effort – Lincoln’s first shot on target on 20 minutes.
Walker might have doubled Mansfield’s lead on 23 minutes after a swift break down the middle which Saw Bishop pick out the run of Hamilton to his left. He got to the by-line before pulling the ball back well to Walker, but the striker’s first time finish was sliced wide.
Stags won a free kick 25 yards out on 29 minutes but Gilks easily kept out Grant’s low shot.
Bishop was too high with a far post header from Mansfield’s sixth corner of the night on 32 minutes.
City keeper Gilks then required some treatment which saw both sets of players heading for drinks at the dug-out. But he was able to continue.
Bostwick had a shot blocked from Lincoln’s second corner soon after.
Logan was back in action on 37 minutes as he back-peddled to grab a looping header from O’Hara.
Two minutes were added on, but Stags saw them out expertly to lead at the break.
Grant tried to backheel a low cross on target as the second half began, the ball deflected for the first of two home corners.
But City then settled well and began to ask questions of their own, also winning two corners in a row.
A Stags break saw Grant sent Hamilton into space for a shot that Gilks had to turn round his left post on 53 minutes.
In reply, two more Lincoln corners ended with Rowe hooking well wide.
There was a let-off on 58 minutes when Logan failed to hold onto a Rowe cross and only just managed to grab at the second attempt before Anderson could profit.
On 59 minutes Stags sent on MacDonald for Grant to try to get the midfield back from a Lincoln side growing in confidence.
Logan had to get a good punch onto a hooked Akinde effort to the far post to conceded a 70th minute corner as Lincoln pressed hard.
The Imps finally levelled the game on 75 minutes from the spot.
Logan came out to meet Anderson and, as he poked the ball past him contact was made and the referee had little hesitation in point to the spot.
Akinde as cool as a cucumber as he strolled up to send Logan the wrong way.
Soon after Mellis was just wide with a thunderbolt at the other end.
With 11 minutes to go Akinde was booked for leaving a foot in on Pearce.
Then Preston was booked for halting a Lincoln break by pulling back Andrade two minutes later.
Andrade’s low shot on 85 minutes saw Logan get down well to grab.
The game became stretched at the end with Timlinson sent on for Mellis in the four added minutes, then Rhead was clapped on in place of Akinde at the death as the night ended all square.
MANSFIELD: Logan; Sweeney, Pearce, Preston; Jones, Bishop, Mellis (Tomlinson 90+3), Benning; Grant (MacDonald 59), Hamilton, Walker. Subs not used: J. Smith, Khan, Ajose, Turner, A. Smith.
LINCOLN: Gilks, O’Connor (Pett 66), O’Hara, Andrade, Toffolo, Bostwick, Rowe, Eardley, Bolger, Anderson, Akinde (Rhead 90+4). Subs not used: Vickers, Frecklington, Angol, Wilson, McCartan.
REFEREE: Graham Scott of Oxfordshire.
ATTENDANCE: 7,177 (1,603 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Krystian Pearce.