A valiant display by 10-men Mansfield Town saw them cling on to produce a memorable first win in full-time charge for new boss Adam Murray as they triumphed 1-0 at AFC Wimbledon this afternoon.
After Rob Taylor had been sent off for a two-footed challenge on 32 minutes, Vadaine Oliver gave Stags a shock lead two minutes into the second half.
Then, with keeper Dimitar Evtimov on brilliant form and Stags defending for their lives, they held on to what they had for a first win in five matches and Murray’s first win at the fourth attempt under severe pressure from the Dons.
Chris Clements was energetic and a real force in central midfield while loanee Luke Waterfall had his best game in a Stags shirt as the pick of an outstanding defence.
But Murray’s men were all heroes in a nailbiting game.
Once again Murray shuffled his pack, making five changes for the third successive game.
The loanee trio of keeper Evtimov, defender Keiron Freeman and winger Junior Brown, who were all not allowed to play in the midweek FA Cup defeat by Cambridge, returned to the side.
Midfielder Jamie McGuire and striker Matt Rhead were also given a start in a 3-5-2 shape with Brown playing in the hole.
Those changes saw Sascha Studer, Rakish Bingham, Ollie Palmer, and Simon Heslop drop to the bench and Lee Beevers left out of the squad.
Mansfield began the afternoon with a first minute scare after conceding a free kick on the left, Francomb floating it in, Akinfenwa heading on towards goal and only an offside flag halting a worrying scramble.
The dangerous Akinfenwa stayed down after the scramble for treatment, once up again he was clearly in some pain as he tried to run the knock off and on five minutes gave up and was replaced by Azeez.
The game was ebb and flow until the 14th minute when Rhead came so close to opening the scoring.
Clements caught the Dons napping with a quickly-taken free kick on the left that saw Taylor drill the ball powerfully across the box to the far post where Rhead stabbed a first time finish against the base of the upright.
Two minutes later Rhead was wide with an ambitious low effort from 30 yards.
Waterfall was bullied out of it by the turn of sub Azeez as he powered into the box on the left, but Waterfall stuck with his task and did well to get back at the striker, get his body between player and ball and see it out for a goalkick.
Evtimov had to be alert to grab a Tafazolli backheader that threatened to find a way past him for an own goal.
Then at the other end Taylor was too high with a 30-yard dipper.
Taylor went on a fabulous run from wide of the left, inside and down the centre. Bursting past four opponents, he then squared the ball to Rhead to finish, but the striker had halted his run and a moment of high promise ended.
A good tackle by Moore on 28 minutes halted a good burst into the box by Brown to win the game’s first corner.
There was a hold-up as Taylor received treatment for an injury to his left ankle, then an offside flag stopped Clements attempts to get the ball in for a second time after the corer was half-cleared.
A throw by Taylor on the left was flicked on by Rhead and then headed on target by Oliver, the catch always easy for Shea.
At this stage there had been little incident and little choose between the sides.
However, the game exploded on 32 minutes as Taylor lunged into a two-footed challenge that left two opponents, Fuller and Moore on the floor and an immediate red card for the Stags man.
Moore needed lengthy treatment but was able to continue.
Rhead set up Oliver for a chance outside the box which saw Moore challenge him from behind and cause the striker to miscue, but no foul was given.
Tafazolli was late with his tackle on Tubbs on 40 minutes, earning a deserved yellow card.
The first half stoppages saw eight minutes added in which the Dons cleared their lines after Waterfall had nodded a Clements free kick into the six yard box.
Oliver was booked in the seventh minute of stoppage time for what the referee deemed to be deliberate handball. And just before the whistle Francomb whistled a shot just over the right angle from 20 yards as the half ended scoreless.
However, the 10 men roared ahead within 90 seconds of the restart.
Goodman failed to cut out a long ball forward and Oliver wrestled his way goalside of Goodman to go clear on the right, ran into the box and slotted a low finish past Shea.
Soon after Oliver had another shot which failed to find its target but also saw the front man pull up injured, but he attempted to continue after treatment.
Tubbs pulled a low first time shot well wide for the Dons on 51 minutes.
A 30 yard thunderbolt from Bulman on 53 minutes was tipped over superbly by Evtimov.
From the corner Evtimov had to get down well again as Waterfall inadvertently directed the ball at his own goal.
Rhead headed away another corner and, when the ball was put back into the middle, Tubbs had a shot blocked.
On 56 minutes Oliver finally limped off, replaced by Bingham.
Rig’s foul on Freeman on 57 minutes saw him booked with Brown joining him a minute later for his foul on Francomb.
On 61 minutes Rhead almost doubled the lead for Stagts only to see Shea make a great save from his header from a Freeman cross.
From the corner Waterfall guided a header on target which again the keeper proved equal to.
Soon after Barrett headed harmlessly wide at the far post from the Dons’ third corner of the half.
Evtimov had to get down to grab a low sidefooted effort from Moore from the edge of the box, which came at him through a crowd of players, as Stags hung on under a period of intense home pressure.
On 68 minutes Evtimov was back in action, beating away another Moore effort from similar range.
Another Mansfield corner saw Waterfall head well over as the visitors enjoyed some relief from the pressure.
Sub Azeez was subbed himself on 74 minutes, replaced by Oakley.
On 79 minutes Goodman was yellow-carded for bringing down Clements.
A minute later from a home corner, Moore drilled a low finish towards the near post where Evtimov got down superbly to touch the effort onto the post and Tafazolli cleared.
Goodman nodded wide from another home corner as we reached the last eight minutes.
A rare Stags broke saw Rhead over-hit his final pass that would have sent Bingham clear.
Heslop was sent on for fresh legs for the excellent Clements with six minutes to go.
On 86 minutes Freeman saw the latest yellow card for kicking the ball clear after a free kick had been awarded.
Rhead stayed down for treatment and was eventually replaced by Palmer with just three minutes to go.
Tubbs was inches wide with his flicked header from a powerful Francomb free kick as the final whistle neared.
As Stags broke upfield, Sutton saw a low shot win a corner and bought some time.
But, with six minutes added on, the home side were soon back on the offensive and Evtimov threw himself into another great save to block a Tubbs blast and, as a scramble followed, he also had to get in the way of an Oakley shot from eight yards before a Barrett effort deflected out for a corner.
The tension was almost unbearable as the Dons laid seige to the Stags box in the final minute, but when Pell sent an unstoppable heafder inches wide from Kennedy’s left wing cross with the last touch of the game, brave Stags were home and dry.
AFC WIMBLEDON: Shea, Fuller, Kennedy, Moore (Pell 84), Barrett, Goodman, Rigg, Bulman, Akinfenwa (Azeez 5, Oakley 74), Tubbs, Francomb. Subs not used: McDonnell, Harrison, Nightingale, Sutherland. STAGS: Evtimov; Sutton, Tafazolli, Waterfall, Freeman; Brown, Clements (Heslop 84), McGuire, Taylor; Rhead (Palmer 87), Oliver (Bingham 56). Subs not used: Studer, Riley, Lambe. REFEREE: Darren Deadman of Cambridgshire.
ATTENDANCE: 3,790 (178 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Dimitar Evtimov.