Gutsy Mansfield Town begin their last 10 games countdown to the end of the season joint top after second half goals from Matt Rhead and Adam Chapman secured a sensational victory over promotion rivals Grimsby at the One Call Stadium last night.
It was the first time since joining the Football League that Stags had won eight games on the bounce and was a 12th win in a sensational 13-game run, only goal difference keeping Wrexham on top after they had fought from behind to win at Lincoln.
But Stags now face more promotion rivals this week with a live TV date at Forest Green before a crucial trip to Wrexham on Tuesday.
Grimsby arrived with the meanest defence in the league plus an army of over 800 noisy fans, and they had the best of the first hour.
But sub Rhead headed the opener on 64 minutes with new boy, Oxford loanee Chapman striking a sensational second eight minutes from time to settle only Grimsby’s third loss in 24 games.
Amid a great atmosphere, Stags created the first half-chance on five minutes as Murray sent Meikle down the right, and his low cross beat the first defender to reach Green, who finished tamely.
From Grimsby’s first corner on 12 minutes, Marriott could only parry Disley’s fierce shot and was then relieved to see Hannah sky the follow-up over the bar from three yards.
On 16 minutes the dangerous Hannah turned the lunging Jones 30 yards from goal and raced forward to let fly with a low shot that Marriott saved at full stretch to his right.
Stags’ next raid saw Daniel meet a far post Meikle cross with a looping header that keeper McKeown managed to block.
Cook’s near post header was well off target from Grimsby’s second corner.
Then Naylor put in a superb shot from 30 yards that Marriott got his body behind and was happy to be able to grab it at the second attempt.
A mistake by Jennings let in Hannah for a shot that Dempster did well to get in the way of as the visitors continued to have a slight edge in a tense contest.
A minute from half-time Dempster hauled back Hannah to earn a booking, Hatton joining him soon after for his challenge on Daniel as he tried to break over the halfway line, the half ending goalless.
At the start of the second-half Stags were almost left red-faced when Hatton put in a free kick from 10 yards into the Stags half and it somehow passed through everyone via a deflection and, seen late by the keeper, needed Marriott to turn it round the post at the last minute.
A Devitt cross right across the face of goal from the left by-line then thankfully ended up behind for a goalkick off a mass of bodies.
Grimsby had come back out with fire in their bellies and Jones had to bring down Naylor in the D, the ex-Stags tumbling into the box and the visitors screaming for a penalty, Hatton’s free kick straight into the wall.
Stags needed some relief and on 56 minutes swapped Stevenson for Rhead.
And what a substitute it turned out to be as, within eight minutes, he had broken the deadlock.
Jennings curled a corner to the far post where Rhead rose to bury his header and then leap over the boards to celebrate with the jubilant home fans.
Meikle did well to stay with Devitt and do enough to force him to shoot off target on a Grimsby break as they looked for a quick reply.
Briscoe came on for Meikle with 18 minutes to go.
With 10 minutes to go, Hannah was just unable to keep a very difficult volleyed chance down from six yards from Thomas’ cross.
And two minutes later Chapman clinched victory with his fourth goal in four days to spark joyous scenes around the ground.
Murray’s pass picked out Green who saw Chapman running in, laid it into his path and the Oxford loanee met it with a sweet, curling first time left foot from 20 yards that gave McKeown no chance.
STAGS: Marriott; Beevers, Jones, Dempster, Jennings; Murray, Chapman, Stevenson; Meikle, Green, Daniel. Subs: Sutton, Briscoe, Wright, Howell, Rhead.
GRIMSBY: McKeown, Hatton, Thomas, Pearson, Miller, Disley, Cook, Devitt, Hannah, Marshall, Naylor. Subs: Colbeck, Brodie, Thanoj, John-Lewis, Wilson.
REFEREE: Graham Horwood of Luton.