A much-improved performance from injury-hit Mansfield Town saw them come away from Fratton Park with a hard-earned point from a 1-1 draw with Portsmouth this afternoon.
It was almost a carbon copy of last season’s game on the south coast with Stags taking the lead early in the second half, this time through Simon Heslop, only to let in a goal late in the game, this time netted by Paul Robinson a little earlier on 70 minutes.
It ended Stags’ record as the only side in the top four divisions who had not yet drawn a game this season, but preserved their unbeaten League record against Portsmouth, this being their fifth League meeting.
Mansfield’s players had been under pressure to put on a performance after two straight defeats.
That was always a tall order in the cauldron of noise that is Fratton Park with 15,000 baying home fans to contend with.
Indeed, the home side piled on the expected early pressure and Mansfield had to cling on for a while before establishing a foothold in what turned into a very absorbing referee.
Stags eventually had the better of the first half and created by far the better chances.
But they had to wait until the first minute of the second half to gain their reward as Simon Heslop drilled home his first goal for the club.
However, a double substitution inspired Pompey to level as Robinson turned the ball home from close range to set up a breathtaking last 20 minutes in which both keepers had to make good saves.
In the end it was a fair result and one that the 397 away fans thoroughly enjoyed.
Mansfield Town two enforced changes. With Ryan Tafazolli out injured, in came new loan signing Jamie Sendles-White for his Stags and League debut in the three-man defence while Simon Heslop replaced suspended skipper Adam Murray. McGuire took over the captain’s armband for the day.
After a heavy morning storm, Fratton Park was bathed in bright Autumn sunshine by the time the match kicked off.
In a frantic first 30 seconds, Studer had to run out his box to make what was a poor clearance and then Sendles-White committed a foul to mark his first involvement in a Mansfield shirt.
There was a huge roar for handball when the free kick was eventually launched into the Mansfield box, but Stags survived.
The visitors finally got out of their half after three minutes and Bingham had a shot blocked on the edge of the box.
Bingham then fed Bell for a poor attempt from 20 yards that was always going wide.
Heslop was lectured for a clattering challenge on Shorey.
Portsmouth forced the first corner of the afternoon on eight minutes. Shorey curled it in from the right and Studer got enough on it to push it away.
Stags broke quickly from that and Bingham made space for a low shot that flew straight at keeper Jones on nine minutes.
Two minutes later Bell was allowed to advance down the centre and tried to chip Jones from 18 yards, the ball going just over the angle.
On 14 minutes Bingham got an angled header on target from a Beevers cross, Jones again in the way to take a comfortable catch.
On 23 minutes Stags kept the ball well and played a succession of passes which ended with Bell cueing up McGuire for a first time shot which he ballooned over the bar.
The home fans gave ironic jeers when they finally got a shot in on the Stags goal on 26 minutes, Taylor’s effort lacking any power and rolling through to Studer.
Drennan’s blocked shot won Pompey a second corner on the half-hour mark, taken short, it was worked to the incoming Drennan, whose finish was woefully high.
Bell dragged a low, hopeful 25-yard finish wide as Mansfield continued to impress.
Studer then comfortably caught a Shorey free kick into the box.
On 37 minutes Stags won their first corner of the contest, which was cleared.
But seconds later Bell lifted a pass over the home defence on the right of the box and Bingham flashed a shot over from a very tight angle.
Bell set up Bingham again on 39 minutes on the left, Bingham taking the ball inside and trying to curl a finish beyond Jones, but sending it too close to the keeper who was able to grab it.
The game exploded on 40 minutes when Rhead’s challenge sent Ertl crashing into the advertising hoardings, sparking angry exchanges between the sides and a yellow card for the Stags striker.
But the half-time whistle arrived with Stags having enjoyed the best of a tight and hectic-paced first 45 minutes.
The second half couldn’t have started better for the visitors as they swept ahead within 58 seconds of the restart.
Rhead challenged for Freeman’s long throw from the left and the ball bounced nicely for Heslop, who steadied himself and drilled a superb low finish past the dive of Jones from the edge of the box.
Home fans were getting quickly irate as first Rhead and then Bell stayed down for treatment after challenges, then Rhead, instead of rolling the ball to the home keeper after the second injury, put it out for a throw instead, putting Pompey under pressure.
When Freeman stayed down injured the referee ignored it as the home fans booed and Studer had to drop on a dangerous low cross from the right by Wallace.
Sutton then got in a good block on Drenan, though an offside flag was up anyway.
Rhead was booed from the field as he made way for Palmer on 58 minutes.
Bingham twice came close to a second goal on the hour. On a breakaway he sent in a stinging shot which Jones get his hand in the way of and, soon after, fired an angled shot from the right which Jones turned away with a superb one-handed save.
However, an offside flag meant it wouldn’t have counted anyway.
Studer showed more confident handling as he grabbed another dangerous low cross from the right.
On 63 minutes Taylor held the ball up well on the edge of the Stags box and managed to turn and launch a shot just over Studer’s bar.
A decent shot from Heslop might have troubled Jones only to see it strike the back of team mate Palmer en route.
Heslop did test Jones from 30 yards soon after, but the keeper wasn’t troubled, then Drennan’s flick was calculated to catch Studer off his line at the other end but sailed well over as the game built towards a thrilling finish.
Sutton did well to hamper Drennan as he tried to get in a diving header, which bounced easily to Studer.
Pompey upped the stakes on 68 minutes as they sent on a pair of Giants in Atangana and Agyemang.
And within two minutes the home side were level as Agyemang overlapped on the right and was allowed to lope into the box from the by-line and pull a low pass into the path of Robinson, who turned the ball past Studer from close range.
On 76 minutes Palmer and Bell worked the ball along the edge of the box before setting up Bingham for a powerful shot that Jones beat away.
Pompey were next to threaten as Wallace drilled a low shot straight at Studer.
Bell was withdrawn in some pain on 70 minutes, replaced by Rob Taylor.
The home side brewed up another fearsome spell of pressure and won a fifth corner, which they wasted.
Studer really earned his corn on 84 minutes as he tipped over a goalbound blast from Hollands after he was set up by Shorey.
Clements, back from injury, was thrown into the action with three minutes to go as Heslop had to be helped off with a knock.
Six agonising minutes were added on at the end, and Atangana brought a low save out of Studer in the first of those.
On 94 minutes Riley was booked for protesting over a Pompey free kick awarded 25 yards out which eventually Shorey curled over the wall and crossbar as the game finally ended all square.
POMPEY: Jones, Devera, Wallace, Ryan Taylor (Storey 85), Ertl (Atangana 68), Wynter, Robinson, Shorey, Drennan (Agyemang 68), Dunne, Hollands. Subs not used: Poke, Holmes, Westcarr, Butler. STAGS: Studer; Sutton, Riley, Sendles-White; Beevers, McGuire, Bell (Rob Taylor 79), Heslop (Clements 87), Freeman; Rhead (Palmer 58), Bingham. Subs not used: Fisher, Lambe, Marsden, Thomas.
REFEREE: Stuart Attwell of Nuneaton.
ATTENDANCE: 15,585 (397 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Simon Heslop.