Mansfield Town’s 10 men just held out for a thrilling 3-2 home win over bottom side Dagenham & Redbridge at One Call Stadium today.
Stags had won 4-3 at Dagenham earlier in the season and deserved a hard-earned three points today.
Trailing 1-0 at the break, Stags had hit back through Matty Blair and birthday boy sub Adi Yussuf and looked home and dry.
But a nailbiting finish saw Krystian Pearce sent off on 82 minutes for hauling down Jamie Cureton in the box.
Cureton missed the target with the spot kick and it all looked safe as the 10 men grabbed a third on 84 minutes through Matt Green.
But veteran Cureton atoned for his spot kick miss on 87 minutes as he made it 3-2 and it took a brilliant last ditch save from Scott Shearer to preserve three hard-earned points and move up to fifth.
Mansfield made two changes on the day. Adam Chapman returned as holding midfielder in place of Jamie McGuire, who was rested with a knee problem, while Dan Alfei made his full debut in place of James Baxendale.
McGuire is going into hospital this week to have his knee problem sorted,
After the furore over sub Adi Yussuf urinating pitchside last weekend at Plymouth, Stags had a portaloo pitchside today for the use of subs.
The afternoon began with an impeccably-observed minute’s silence for former Stags star Johnny Miller, who died on Thursday.
Mansfield made a positive start, but the visitors posed the first threat as Muldoon went just wide with a 25 yard free kick in the fifth minute.
On 11 minutes Alfei warmed keeper O’Brien’s hands from 20 yards, but the shot was straight at him.
Five minutes later Clements put a free kick into the mixer and Tafazolli glanced a header just wide of goal
A high, hopeful punt into the box soon after by Muldoon saw the ball worryingly drift just over the far angle, though Shearer seemed to have it covered.
Blair drew deserved applause for an electric run from halfway down the left, leaving everyone in his wake, but no one could get to his final cross.
Stags were relieved when a low Widdowson ball across the box failed to find a Daggers shirt and was put out for a corner.
Blair won a free kick in a good position for Benning’s trusty left foot 25 yards out, and he made O’Brien work, diving to his left to turn the ball away for the first of two corners.
Dagenham enjoyed a brief spell of pressure and twice Collins headed away.
But on 32 minutes Blair cut inside from the left and shot goalwards, the ball deflecting just over.
On 39 minutes the visitors tested Shearer for the first time. Working the ball down the centre to Chambers on the left, he got into the box and shot low at goal, Shearer down to his right to make the save.
But on 42 minutes Stags were caught out on the break.
The referee played a good advantage after Beardsley was fouled just inside his own half and play progressed, though Green’s final cross was to no one.
Dagenham then countered with speed and the ball was worked out to Widdowson on the left who drilled a low cross through everyone in the box to the far post where Hawkins was on hand for a tap-in for his first League goal.
There were a few boos from the stands as the sides went off at half-time.
But Stags came out on the front foot and O’Broen did well to beat Blair to a near post cross by Alfei.
On 48 minutes Alfei forced a save from O’Brien with a 20-yard snapshot from a clearance.
On 51 minutes Murray injected some pace into his attack as he replaced Beardsley with Yussuf.
Within three minutes Stags were level. Benning pumped in a free kick from the right, Tafazolli headed on and Blair met the ball on the half-volley, whipping it home off the inside of the right post.
The home fans were now fully back behind their side as they piled on the pressure.
But on 58 minutes Passley’s right wing cross deflected up off Benning and Shearer had to claw the dropping ball from under his crossbar for a corner.
Alfei was too high for Stags, then Shearer turned a low cross round for a corner at his near post, from which Blair broke well and forced a corner for Stags as play swung from end to end.
Pearce forced a great save on 64 minutes with a looping header that threatened to drop beyond O’Brien.
But Mansfield were finally ahead on 67 minutes. Clements put birthday boy Yussuf away down the right and he strode confidently into the box before slotting home a superb low finish past O’Brien.
On 71 minutes Dagenham withdrew McClure and Muldoon and sent on the evergreen Cureton and Richards.
Five minutes later O’Brien had to turn away a curling Benning free kick from 20 yards and then superbly turned over a Collins header from a Chapman corner as Stags stepped up their hunt for the all-important third goal.
Tenacity from Yussuf won the ball and set up Green only to see him shoot wide.
However, the game exploded on 82 minutes as Cureton was pulled down by Pearce in the box.
He was shown a straight red and a penalty awarded. However, Cureton somehow was well over with his kick to the jeers of home fans.
The game looked sealed on 84 minutes when on a counter-attack Blair set up Green for a cool, low finish to make it 3-1.
But three minutes later Cureton poached one from close range amid a scramble and it was game on again.
A minute from time Shearer made a brilliant save to keep out a point blank range header from Chambers.
STAGS: Shearer, Collins, Alfei, Pearce, Tafazolli, Benning, Clements, Chapman, Beardsley (Yussuf 51), Green (Lambe 87), Blair. Subs not used: Jensen, Thomas, Kavanagh, McGuire, Baxendale
DAGENHAM: O’Brien, Passley (Jones 79), Labadie, Dikamona, McClure (Cureton 71), Chambers, Hawkins, Muldoon (Richards 71), Worrall, Hyam, Widdowson. Subs not used: Cousins, Doidge, Hemmings, Hoyte.
REFEREE: Sebastian Stockbridge of Tyne.
ATTENDANCE: 2,822 (129 away)
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Mal Benning.