Despite dominating for long spells and having the best of the chances, Mansfield Town stumbled at the first FA Cup hurdle as they were beaten 2-1 at home by in-form League Two leaders Plymouth Argyle in this afternoon’s first round tie.
On a cold and windy afternoon, Stags gave a good account of themselves against a very good Argyle side that have now only lost once in 16 games.
But it wasn’t enough as they twice fell behind and David Fox’s 80th minute winner proved a bridge too far.
Stags will be annoyed to have conceded from a counter-attack from within the opposition half for the second successive game as Jordan Slew put Argyle ahead on 14 minutes.
But Mansfield persisted and were rewarded on 58 minutes as Ashley Hemmings levelled the tie.
Hemmings also rattled a post soon after.
But the day belonged to Fox as his first goal in the Pilgrims’ colours booked their place in the hat for Monday’s draw.
Boss Adam Murray made five changes. Out went Scott Shearer, Pat Hoban, Kyle Howkins, Kevan Hurst, and Alex Iacovitti.
Forest loanee Iacovitti was not permitted to become cup-tied while Howkins had suffered a family bereavement and not trained all week.
Striker Darius Henderson passed a late fitness test to be on the bench but had not trained all week.
In goal was Brian Jensen with returns to the side for Mitch Rose, Ashley Hemmings and Jamie McGuire plus James Baxendale, who has made just two starts in cup games all season.
League Two leaders Plymouth, only beaten once in 15 games, were unchanged.
With the wind at their backs, Stags began the game kicking towards an empty Quarry Lane stand, kept shut to maximise revenue from the tie.
There was a minute’s silence for Remembrance Day with Last Post played on the bugle before kick-off.
Mansfield began well, winning two corners in the first five minutes.
And on seven minutes Baxendale released Green down the centre only to see the striker prod a tame finish at the keeper.
Stags had enjoyed all the early pressure, but fir the second goal in a row were caught out on the break as Argyle snatched a 14th minute lead from their first real attack.
As a Stags attack broke down, Slew sped away from just inside his own half and left the chasing McGuire in his wake as he raced into the box and slotted home across Jensen and off the inside of the far post.
On 22 minutes a Clements corner was half-cleared and when he launched the ball back in towards the far post, it caught on the wind and gave the keeper a scare as it floated wide.
Benning then sent a half volley wide of the near post from the left of the box on 26 minutes.
Fox tried an ambitious shot from inside his own half with Jensen out his goal, but it was never likely to trouble the keeper being hit against the wind.
On 28 minutes Benning was on target with a free kick, but it was straight at McCormick.
Baxendale tried to beat the keeper with a curling 20-yard effort on 32 minutes, but it was turned away for a fourth home corner.
It took Plymouth 39 minutes to win their first corner but, after a scramble, it was finally hooked clear by Clements.
On 42 minutes McCormick was forced to make his best save of the day as Hemmings let fly from over 25 yards and the keeper got down to block.
In the one added minute Mitch Rose was too high from 20 yards as Stags went in a goal behind.
Carey fired over the far angle from distance in the first raid of the second half.
Hemmings came close to levelling the game on 52 minutes as he sent a volley over the bar from 12 yards after Bennett had risen well to nod down a Benning free kick.
Benning then gave the ball away cheaply and Spencer was able to turn and fire a firm shot at Jensen.
But Stags were level on 58 minutes. Mitch Rose crossed from the right, Green got a flick-on and the ball reached Hemmings at the far post from where he drilled an unstoppable rising shot under the far angle.
Soon after Hemmings again tried his luck, this time down the centre from 20 yards but straight to the keeper.
On 64 minutes Green ran at the Pilgrims’ defence and, unable to get a shot away, poked the ball to his left where Hemmings saw a vicious low shot come back off the far post.
Carey was well over for Plymouth in their next attack as we reached 77 minutes and the tie perfectly poised.
Stags sent on Thomas for Mitch Rose on 72 minutes to inject new life into their bid for round two.
On 79 minutes an offside flag was already up as Collins picked out the of Bennett and his low ball was turned home by Green.
However, with 10 minutes to go, Argyle were ahead again.
Slew played the ball to Fox, who controlled and looked up to crash a fine shot past Jensen from 18 yards with McGuire down on the turf holding his head, but the officials seeing no foul.
Almost immediately Hemmings crashed a shot across the face of the away goal after sub Henderson had used his muscle to make the space.
There was a big shout for a penalty as Thomas seemed to be held and went down, but nothing was given.
Danny Rose was then sent on for Collins and a minute later Spencer was booked for persistent fouling.
But time ran out on the Stags as they exited the competition in the first round for the second season on the trot.
STAGS: Jensen, Bennett, Pearce, Collins (Danny Rose 87), Benning; McGuire, Mitch Rose (Thomas 73), Baxendale (Henderson 81), Clements, Hemmings; Green. Subs not used: Shearer, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hoban.
PLYMOUTH: McCormick, Miller, Bulvitis, Bradley, Purrington, Songo’o, Fox, Tanner (Donaldson 61), Carey, Slew (Ijaha 83), Spencer. Subs not used: Goodwillie, Jervis, Osborne, Dorel.
REFEREE: Dean Whitestone of Northants.
ATTENDANCE: 2,318 (439 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Chris Clements.