Five years of hurt and exile from the Football League were ended this afternoon as Mansfield Town were crowned BSBP champions.
Appropriately goal ace Matt Green was the hero for the second time in a week as his 40th minute penalty proved enough to see off Wrexham at the One Call Stadium – Green’s 27th goal of the season.
Title rivals Kidderminster Harriers did what they could by beating Stockport 3-0 to relegate their visitors.
But if Stags knew if could win, they were champions – and, backed by a loud and passionate home crowd, they achieved their moment of glory.
It was a great moment for owner John Radford, who promised the Stags would win the league last summer, for Paul Cox, who achieved play-offs in his first season in charge last year and now the title.
No one cared that Wrexham had rested seven players as the side they sent battled hard and even pushed for an equaliser near the end to try to spoil the impeding party.
The afternoon to remember ended a record-breaking season in which Stags had achieved a new record number of points in one season of 95, the most number of league wins in one season of 30, the most number of away wins in one season of 14, and also equalled the club best winning sequence of 12 wins and equalled the Conference best winning sequence of 12 wins.
Mansfield were almost inevitably unchanged. That meant right back Lee Beevers was declared fit, despite suffering a recurrence of his dislocated shoulder in the heroic last minute 2-1 win at Hereford on Tuesday, which set up today’s chance of becoming champions.
An even bigger boost for Stags was the news that Wrexham were turning out a much-weakened side with one eye on their midweek play-off semi-final, the Welsh club making seven changes and including some young reserves on the bench.
It is now 36 years since Stags clinched the old Division Three title on the final day of the season at Wrexham.
Mansfield also knew that if they failed to beat Wrexham today, they may be left relying on relegation-haunted Stockport County’s result at title rivals Kidderminster - Stockport last time letting the Stags down five years ago when their midweek defeat against Chester saw Mansfield relegated.
The atmosphere built wonderfully from the moment the gates opened with great applause for the players when they came out for their warm-up.
As they went back down the tunnel the noise was magnificent with the smoke of yellow flares billowing down from the South Stand.
There was another roar as owner John Radford and chief executive Carolyn Radford went onto the pitch in front of the West Stand to wave to the sold-out home crowd.
The teams were greeted by a mass of blue and yellow balloons and a huge roar as the fans immediately let their side know the town was fully behind them and the task that lay ahead.
Stags put on the early pressure with two long throws from Chapman, the second met by the head of Dempster and directed on target where keeper Coughlin blocked and the visitors eventually kicked clear for corner which came to nothing after a foul was spotted.
Murray then helped the ball back over an advancing line of defenders to pick out the run of Stevenson. But his first touch took him a little wide on the left and, although he got a low shot on target, it was an easy save for Coughlin with little goal for the midfielder to aim at.
The visitors finally carved out a couple of threats of their own as the home side laboured to make a clearance and, soon after, Hunt curled in a dangerous low cross from the left which Marriott safely grabbed.
Meikle tracked back superbly on the left to get between the advancing Cieslewicz and the ball and shepherd it out for a goalkick to huge applause.
On 13 minutes Murray almost found a way through as a long Chapman throw was headed straight to him on the edge of the box, but Coughlin was down smartly to save the skipper’s volley.
Corner number two arrived for Mansfield on 15 minutes from which Jones saw a shot blocked.
Then Green’s tenacity saw him win a ball he had little right to win on the left of the box and feed Meikle for a shot he sliced well wide.
Artell then had to head away a dangerous Beevers cross as Wrexham clung on.
On 23 minutes Mansfield were almost given a helping hand as, from a Murray free kick, Jones got in a far post header which saw Walker almost head past his own keeper, Coughlin having to make a good save.
An Artell clearance out the ground summed up the pressure Wrexham were under.
A good break down the centre by the home side on 27 minutes, instigated by a clever lob by Murray saw Briscoe feed Green to cut back in from the left and lift a powerful shot over the bar from 25 yards.
There was a moment’s worry as Taylor lost possession in the home box, but an offside flag was up before Ogleby rolled a finish wide.
A lovely reverse pass from Murray sent Chapman to the right by-line, a scramble eventually seeing Stevenson’s shot blocked for a corner.
Coughlin failed to claim another long Chapman throw at the far post, but the Red Dragons somehow managed to scramble clear.
Then Briscoe drilled in a near post cross which Stevenson dragged backwards with his foot and wide of the target.
The big breakthrough finally arrived on 40 minutes. Briscoe terrified the defence as he ran at then on the right and, as he burst into the box, he was upended by Little.
The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Green stepped up to tuck the ball low inside the left post with Coughlin going the right way but unable to reach a perfectly-placed kick.
A clash of heads between Jones and Cieslewicz saw a brief hold-up with the home fans now in full voice.
Three minutes were added on, during which Dempster’s far post header was well over from a right wing free kick by Murray.
But the whistle ended the half with Mansfield enjoying that narrow one-goal advantage that had them five points clear at the top with Stockport holding Kidderminster goalless and a massive 45 minutes laying ahead.
Early in the second half news came through that Kidderminster had gone ahead, but Stockport fans had invaded the pitch and a Harriers player had been punched, the referee forced to take the teams off the field.
At Mansfield the early stage of the half had been nervous and lacked thrills, though Dempster wasn’t far short of getting a head onto a whipped cross by Chapman.
Wrexham won their first corner of the day on 54 minutes which Marriott punched clear, despite being flattened by team mate Jones.
Stags broke quickly with Green seeming to be taken out of the play off the ball. But Briscoe charged on and Meikle was just short of being able to get on the end of his cross.
The home side were now on the ascendancy again and forced another corner.
But, when Briscoe was robbed on the edge of the Wrexham box, the visitors broke through Ogleby who was superbly tackled by the ice cool Beevers in the box whose clearance then drew huge cheers.
A Dempster ball in from the left then saw Stevenson drill a powerful shot over the far angle.
A gutsy run by Briscoe then took him into the box where he forced the keeper to parry at his near post for a corner, from which the ball bounced to Stevenson at the far post where he stabbed a shot that bounced off the top of the bar.
On 68 minutes Walker launched a long free kick into the home box where sub Reid connected with a firm header straight at Marriott.
Marriott also had to race out his box to make a brilliant tackle on Reid as he tried to run onto a long ball down the left.
Hunt was too high from 25 yards to jeers from the home crowd as the finishing straight began to appear for Mansfield.
Daniel took over from Meikle for the last 10 minutes.
News came through at this stage that Harriers had made it 2-0 which piled the pressure onto Mansfield not to concede, Reid pulling a low shot well wide for the visitors.
Howell was sent on to steel up the midfield with four minutes left in place of Stevenson.
There was more drama in the last minute as Artell caught Daniel high and late to earn an automatic red card.
Four minutes were added on and Rhead replaced Green in the first of those.
Harriers were by now 3-0 up, but it didn’t matter at all as Stags had done the job and were up as champions.
The club asked fans not to invade the pitch at the end, but a small number defied that instruction.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Marriott; Beevers, Jones, Dempster, Taylor; Murray, Stevenson (Howell 86), Chapman; Briscoe, Green (Rhead 90+1), Meikle (Daniel 80). Subs not used: Sutton, Speight.
WREXHAM: Coughlin, Cieslewicz (Creighton 75), Ogleby (Reid 59), Hunt, Little (Royle 85), Walker, Clowes, Colbeck, Evans, Adebola, Artell. Subs not used: Morton, Parle. REFEREE: Nicholas Kinseley of Wickford.
ATTENDANCE: 6,394 (142 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Lee Beevers.