Mansfield Town suffered late heartbreak today as Plymouth Argyle caught them with a late sucker punch to take all three points.
The Stags, although heavily depleted on the day, had only themselves to blame after a dominant 90 minutes in which they had chances to grab the win their approach play deserved.
Instead, Neal Trotman secured a first win in eight games for the struggling Pilgrims as he rose to head home from a long Conor Hourihane free kick with no challenge.
Mansfield had to make five changes with three of the back four from midweek missing and keeper Alan Marriott also ruled out.
However, all those who came in did superbly well and Stags barely let Argyle out of their own half in the first 30 minutes.
The late winner was the first that Stags had conceded in 276 minutes of League football.
But, perhaps more tellingly, they have now not scored in 338 minutes – over five and a half hours – and that is manager Paul Cox’s biggest problem.
For this game, defenders John Dempster and James Jennings were both suspended and Martin Riley out injured.
On top of that, keeper Marriott reported in with a back spasm and failed a pre-match fitness test on the pitch.
Liam Mitchell replaced him in goal while centre half George Pilkington was recalled from his loan at Forest Green and there were also places for John McCombe, Ben Hutchinson and Ritchie Sutton, Ollie Palmer dropping to the bench.
McGuire was made skipper for the day in the absence of Dempster.
Forgotten men McCombe and Pilkington both turned in excellent displays on rare appearances in the side in the absence of the regulars, one big bonus on a day otherwise to forget.
But the display wasn’t bad enough to justify some of the comments towards the end of the game and shouts after the whistle from some disgruntled home fans as Stags went a fifth game without a win.
Clucas forced a left wing corner within 30 seconds of kick-off, a second immediately following.
Blanchard was hurt trying to clear the aftermath of the second corner as Rhead slid into him late, the defender able to continue and the Stags striker lectured.
Mansfield had begun very much on the front foot and some neat passing earned corner number three on four minutes, Argyle again able to clear.
Another dazzling display of passes right across the park on nine minutes ended with Blake seeing a shot blocked for corner number four.
That came out to McGuire whose sliced first time attempt almost went for a throw.
On 13 minutes Stags compiled the move of the match as Beevers swapped passes along the right with Rhead before sending in a low cross skidding in front of goal where McCormick made a superb reaction save to block Clucas’ finish and Blanchard managed to hook the loose ball clear before Hutchinson could follow up from close range.
Mitchell had been a spectator for the first 20 minutes but finally had work to do to get down to cut out a dangerous low Reckord cross from the left in Argyle’s first real attack of menace.
Clucas continued to be in the thick of things for the home side and did well to control a firm Blake pass and spin before hooking a finish well over the top from 18 yards.
Blanchard came up with another crucial challenge as he slid in to block Rhead as he tried to put away a low pulled back Clucas cross.
From the right wing corner, Beevers headed back across goal and Clucas jumped to nod just over the bar on 27 minutes.
Two minutes later Boco burst in the home box and fired in a shot on target which was straight at Mitchell.
Arygle threatened again on 35 minutes, two visiting players flicking on a long free kick to Alessandra, who nodded over from inside the six yard box.
On 37 minutes Hutchinson went in on Hourihane with a solid tackle that won the ball but showed too much stud for the referee’s liking and out came a yellow card for the Stags man.
Rhead’s header was well over from home corner number six as Stags continued to plug away.
Mansfield forced two more corners as we entered the two added minutes at the end of the half, Rhead heading over from the second, as the sides went in goalless.
Mitchell had to block an angled Boco blast within two minutes of the restart and McGuire headed the corner clear.
Plymouth had come out in determined mood and quickly forced another corner.
Daniel then spurned a great chance on 51 minutes as Rhead bent in a superb low ball across goal and Daniel at the far post was unable to guide it at the gaping goal.
A minute later McCormick had to save a Rhead header from a long Hutchinson free kick.
Mitchell was fully behind a low Boco effort from 20 yards, then Sutton threw himself at a Hutchinson cross and sent a powerful header just over as we continued to await the breakthrough.
Slack making from Stags a throw allowed Reid the chance to turn and send a low shot at Mitchell, but again it was a routine stop.
McCormick safely clutched Hutchinson’s corner on the hour, then Daniel was well over the top with a 30 yard free kick.
Hourihane was well off the mark with a long range effort on the run on 68 minutes, Rhead replaced by Andrew before play restarted.
Within a minute Blake was cautioned for a foul on Reckord.
With 12 minutes to go Palmer took over from Clucas in the home attack in a last ditch bid for glory.
McCombe slid in to make a great block on Reid in the box in a rare Argyle threat.
Meikle came on for Hutchinson seven minutes from time, two minutes later Argyle made a double switch, both teams knowing a single goal would now win it.
Daniel got a firm rising shot away from 18 yards, but the keeper was well placed.
Trotman was then too high with a far post header as we began the four minutes of stoppage time, McGuire booked in the penultimate minute of it for a foul.
But disaster struck with just over a minute to go as Trotman stole the winner.
Hourihane launched a long free kick from the Plymouth half into the box where Mitchell seemed to start to come to claim it but halted.
The home defenders all switched off for a second, which was all Trotman needed to rise and plant home the winning header just as Mansfield thought they were about to record a third 0-0 draw in eight days.
STAGS: Mitchell, Sutton, Pilkington, McCombe, Beevers, Blake, McGuire, Daniel, Clucas (Palmer 78), Hutchinson (Meikle 83), Rhead (Andrew 68). Subs not used: Black, Murtagh, Stevenson, Howell.
PLYMOUTH ARGYLE: McCormick, Bury, Blanchard, Branston, Hourihane, Alessandra (Harvey 85), Boco (Gurrieri 75), Reid, Trotman, Nelson, Reckord (Hayes 85). Subs not used: Cole, Young, Wotton, Bencherif.
REFEREE: Gary Sutton of Lincolnshire.
ATTENDANCE: 3, 379 (460 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: George Pilkington.