For once Mansfield Town found themselves on the right side of Darren Drysdale but on the wrong end of a bruising 2-1 home defeat by unbeaten leaders Burton Albion at One Call Stadium this afternoon.
Jamie McGuire and Martin Riley both appeared lucky not to be shown red cards near the end of a game refereed by Drysdale, so often their nemesis in the past.
Instead he sent-off Burton’s Robbie Weir which gave Stags two minutes plus seven added minutes to hunt in vain for an equaliser against 10 men.
McGuire appeared to stamp on the fallen Weir after a heavy challenge and Weir responded with a headbutt.
That sparked the first of two major dust-ups, the second coming right at the death when Riley clashed with a defender after jumping with the keeper and then seemed to throw a punch which went unpunished.
But the most important statistics were that, in a game short on chances, Burton managed to beat debut-making keeper Dimitar Evtimov twice and left with the points to go top.
With 42 minutes gone and neither keeper having a real shot to save, it looked like this game had 0-0 all over it with two sides who don’t score many goals cancelling each other out.
Instead a slice of huge fortune changed all that as Albion caught Stags on the break and Alex MacDonald saw his 20 yard shot take two big deflections off defenders to give an unlucky Evtimov no chance.
The home side pressed more after the break and Rob Taylor and Matt Rhead both came close on a couple of occasions.
Instead, more luck went Burton’s way as Riley’s great tackle on MacDonald in the box saw the ball roll perfectly towards Callum McFadzean to tuck away the second goal when the ball could have gone anywhere.
Matt Rhead battled manfully all afternoon and deserved his reply from a 75th minute leader from an Adam Murray free kick.
Stags then threw everything at a resolute Burton defence but the nearest we came to another goal was a long range blast from MacDonald that smashed into the home crossbar.
It was a first home defeat of the season for the Stags, who had hoped to bounce back from last Saturday’s disappointment at Dagenham and at least made a better game of this one.
Mansfield gave Bulgarian goalkeeper Evtimov a debut as one of five changes.
Evtimov, on a six-month loan from Nottingham Forest, replaced Sascha Studer and was joined in the side by Riley, Sam Clucas, Murray and Ollie Palmer.
Riley came into defence for John Dempster, who has a groin injury.
Clucas, with the speculation over a move to Chesterfield ended in midweek, came in to play the advanced midfield role in place of Chris Clements, while skipper Murray took over in central midfield in place of Simon Heslop.
Up front, Ollie Palmer was given a start in place of Alex Fisher.
Taft overhit a long ball forward for a home goalkick in Burton’s first threat.
Clucas was off target with the game’s first effort on eight minutes after a lay-off from Palmer just outside the box.
Sharps then had a shot blocked for Burton with the offside flag up anyway.
McLaughlin punched away the first corner on 10 minutes and was then down bravely to clear at the feet of Rhead as the ball was helped back in again and Palmer flicked on towards his strike partner.
Clucas did really well to keep a high ball forward in play by the right corner flag, but there was no one there to capitalise on his outswinging cross when it came in waist-high.
Murray played a superb ball to his right which Beevers took in his stride and burst into the box on the right before lifting a tame effort over the bar.
Taft then hurled in a good long throw from the left which saw Beavon spin and get in a shot from seven yards that Beevers was in quickly to block.
Evtimov did have to get down to block a low Beavon shot on 20 minutes but once again an offside flag was already held aloft.
On 24 minutes a Burton free kick was cleared as far as MacDonald just outside the box, who screwed his first time shot well wide.
Good pace from Taylor down the left saw him release Clucas who went past two defenders in a thrilling run before being crowded out on the by-line and the ball ran harmlessly into touch.
Albion won their first corner on 27 minutes which came to nothing as we continued to await the first goal or serious save.
Burton were upset that they felt Rhead handled before releasing Palmer down the right. Edwards managed to get in the way of his final shot to concede the corner from which Rhead was penalised for holding and the danger over.
Beavon was well wide with a tame low shot from 30 yards after which Mousinho was warned for dissent by referee Drysdale.
McLaughlin easily caught the home side’s third corner on 33 minutes.
Soon after Mousinho was hurt in a challenge with Taylor and then furious when Drysdale seemed to forget to wave him back on after treatment.
Burton broke quickly from a Stags long throw deep in their own half, but Beavon’s final cross was too hard for McFadzean to reach beyond the far post.
On 41 minutes McGurk bent a left foot effort wide of the far post from 18 yards when the ball ran loose after good defending from Riley.
A minutes later Burton took a fortunate lead with a deflected goal.
Taylor failed to find Clucas with a loose pass deep into the Burton half on the left.
From that the Brewers broke strongly and with purpose, working the ball to MacDonald on the left who came inside and tried a shot from 20 yards that took two deflections en route that gave Evtimov no chance.
In stoppage time Murray won a corner but then floated it straight to the keeper at the near post.
On the restart Sutton was livid after being caught in the mouth in a challenge with McGurk, McGuire having to push him away from the referee.
Stags then won a corner which saw a defender head against a home player at the near post and the ball bounce to safety.
Beavon was angry over a Stags challenge that he felt had gone unpunished and on 52 minutes angrily jumped into Sutton for a silly yellow card.
When the long free kick was half-cleared to just outside the box, Taylor lashed a first time left foot shot across goal and wide – Stags’ best effort so far.
Taylor was too high from 18 yards on 58 minutes with another first time effort from a half-clearance after Tafazolli had helped on a long Beevers throw.
Stags won two corners in a row, McLaughlin getting a hand to both of them.
Mousinho stayed down after a challenge with Rhead with nothing given and then Candsell-Sherriff caught Rhead with a lunging tackle which gave Stags a free kick on 61 minutes.
Murray sent that in and Rheada powered his header inches wide.
Soon after Clucas dragged a tame low effort well wide from 20 yards with his claims for a corner waved away.
On 62 minutes Fisher came on to replace Palmer and seconds later, from a right wing cross, McLaughlin came for the ball but was beaten by Rhead whose header ended up on the roof of the empty net.
McLaughlin felt he had been fouled and his remonstrations brought him a yellow card.
Bevevers joined him in the book soon after for a foul on 67 minutes.
That gave McGurk a chance from 30 yards which he got over the wall but curled wide with Evtimov scrambling across goal.
But the Brewers were two to the good on 71 minutes.
The visitors attacked down the centre where MacDonald looked set to pull the trigger until Riley slid in with a good challenge.
Unfortunately for Mansfield the loose ball rolled straight towards McFadzean who had the simple task of slotting into an empty net from 10 yards.
Stags needed a quick reply and got it four minutes later.
Murray launched in a long free kick and, with McLaughlin again coming for it, Rhead got there first with a deft header that sailed into the empty net from eight yards.
Fergus Bell came on for Taylor with a little over 12 minutes to play as Mansfield went for the final push.
MacDonald almost wrapped things up out of the blue with a powerful dipping shot from 30 yards that beat Evtimov but came back off the home bar on 84 minutes.
Tempers flared two minutes later after Weir went in hard on McGuire and the Stags man seemed to stamp on him on the floor, Weir was soon up and seemed to butt McGuire. After a hold-up Weir was shown a red card on 88 minutes and McGuire escaped punishment.
Seven extra minutes were added with home fans trying to lift their side.
There was an almighty confrontation in the last of those minutes as Riley appeared to punch a defender who had clattered into him after he had gone up with the keeper.
Stags believed Riley had been punched first and, with neither official having a clear view, the referee kept his cards in his pocket.
But time had run out on Mansfield.
STAGS: Evtimov; Sutton, Riley, Tafazolli; Beevers (Heslop 90), Murray, Clucas, McGuire, Taylor (F. Bell 77); Rhead, Palmer (Fisher 62). Subs not used: Studer, Marsden, Thomas, Clements.
BURTON: McLaughlin, Edwards, Cansdell-Sherriff, Mousinho, Taft, Sharps, Weir, Beavon (Harness 77), MacDonald, McFadzean (Lee Bell 90), McGurk. Subs not used: Blythe, Lyness, Knowles, M. Palmer, Slade. REFEREE: Darren Drysdale of Lincolnshire.
ATTENDANCE: 2,966 (508 away). CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Matt Rhead.