Despite going behind early on and trailing for most of the first half, Mansfield Town hit back to destroy Calor Southern League Premier side St Albans City 8-1 in a thrilling FA Cup first round tie at Clarence Park this afternoon.
It was one of the Stags’ biggest-ever victories and Sam Clucas led the charge with a personal four-goal haul.
Ironically Stags, 1-0 down to Darren Locke’s eighth minute haul, hadn’t scored a goal for 472 minutes before Lee Stevenson levelled the game a minute from the break.
Then, like buses, the second arrived a minute later when Anthony Howell tucked home from close range to send Mansfield in 2-1 ahead with the game turned on its head.
The Saints, who have been in fine form recently, gave Stags plenty of problems in a superb FA Cup tie on a wet Clarence Park surface in the first half.
But the part-timers inevitably tired in a one-sided second half in which Mansfield might have gone well past double figures, Clucas bagging a 12-minute hat-trick, then adding a fourth in the final minute.
Junior Daniel and Ollie Palmer also got in on the goalscoring as Mansfield made sure they were in the hat for tomorrow’s second round draw.
Stags boss Paul Cox made five changes to the side that had been well beaten 3-0 at Southend last weekend. From that game, James Alabi and Lee Beevers were suspended, Ben Hutchinson was out injured and Calvin Andrew and Jack Blake were left out.
Clucas and Howell came back into the midfield with James Jennings returning to the back four and Stevenson was brought in to play in the hole behind the returning Palmer.
Cox will be delighted that four of the five who came in found the net.
However, the Saints were first to threaten on two minutes when Chappell showed great pace to burst down the left with Clucas in pursuit and still get in a good low cross that Marriott grabbed.
Palmer got in the way of Clucas as he burst into the home box for the first time.
But a fumble from home keeper Bastock gifted Stags a fourth minute corner from which Howell almost scored, his powerful downward header from six yards blocked by the keeper’s knees.
However, it was the home side who shocked Stags with the opening goal after just eight minutes.
The pressure began from a home free kick. Howell did well to poke the ball away from Frendo before he could get a shot away. But it reached Keenleyside on the right, who curled a superb cross to the far post where Locke rose in commanding fashion to beat Marriott with a firm header.
Two minutes later Frendo squared the ball to Nwokeji on the edge of the box and he forced Marriott to his knees with a low on-target strike.
Stevenson got a head onto a left wing Jennings corner, but it struck another player en route to an easy catch for Bastock.
When McGuire hoisted the ball into the box on 13 minutes, Palmer headed on and Daniel ran onto it only to send a cross-cum-shot across the gaping goal from a tight angle.
McCombe slid in to block a dangerous low Keenleyside cross, Pilkington headed the resulting corner clear and then, as the home side, kept up the pressure, McCombe flew into a crucial tackle on Keenleyside in the box.
Stags fans were cheering what they thought was an equaliser on 19 minutes as the home side failed to clear their lines from Jennings’ long free kick.
But Clucas’ rising near post blast bulged the sidenetting the wrong side of the upright.
Mansfield were much closer on 22 minutes as Stevenson sent the ball high down the centre for Daniel to chase, and the winger got there and sent what looked a perfect lob over the stranded keeper only to see the ball come back off the crossbar.
Bastock confidently punched away Jennings’ third corner as Stags maintained their increasing momentum.
On 29 minutes, though, Locke was not picked up properly from a Comley free kick and might have done better with his free header, sending it over the bar.
The way he hung on the netting afterwards said everything as a second goal at this point could have been crucial.
Daniel and Clucas were both feet away from turning in a Clucas cross as the far three minutes later as Stags resumed their pressure.
Then a Jennigs free kick was cleared to Clucas whose measured volley forced Bastock to turn the ball round his near post on 37 minutes.
But the Saints broke swiftly and superbly from the flag kick and worked Nwokeji into the box where Daniel slid in with a fantastic last ditch challenge as Marriott stared down the barrel.
Instead Mansfield finally drew level a minute from the break.
McGuire carved out the chance with a superb ball threaded into the left of the box to send Stevenson scampering away and beating the keeper with a perfect, low curling finish at the near post.
It ended a wait of 472 minutes for a goal for the Stags.
But they didn’t have to wait long for another as within 60 seconds they were ahead.
Palmer swapped passes with Stevenson to get into the box on the right where, from a tight angle, his low cross-cum-shot beat Bastock, but was also looking likely to beat the far post, Howell thankfully on hand to make sure from close range almost on the goal line.
The stunned home side were then furious to see the referee blow for half-time as they won themselves a corner in a bid to find a quick reply.
Chappell had the first effort of the second half on 48 minutes as he cut inside from the left to fire a low 20-yard shot on target that Marriott needed two attempts to safely grasp.
Stevenson then tried his luck from 30 yards for the visitors, but it was down the throat of Bastock and comfy.
The home side lost Graham to injury on 51 minutes, Henry coming on for the first substitution of the afternoon.
On 56 minutes Palmer forced a good save out of Bastock with a header from Jennings’ left wing corner as Stags hunted a killer third goal.
Three minutes later the home side wasted a half-chance as a corner was cleared out to Frendo 20 yards from goal who had to shoot first time and sliced it well wide.
Sutton allowed Frendo to wriggle the wrong side of him on 59 minutes and his subsequent hold earned him a booking.
The ball was launched into the box where it thankfully went out for a goalkick before it was pulled back for Frendo to tuck away a superbly-executed volley and see his equaliser celebrations quickly ended.
Calls for a penalty in the Mansfield box on 65 minutes instead saw Mansfield break quickly and Stevenson cue up Clucas for a poor shot which he screwed well wide.
Seconds later Palmer did well to battle down the left and pull a low ball back towards Stevenson, who did the hard bit and turned well only to skewer a low finish wide.
Two minutes later Howell played a short pass to Clucas in the box where he made space for a thunderous low shot that found its way for a corner off a defender or the keeper in a tangle of players at the far post.
Daniel finally eased the pressure with the goal of the game on 70 minutes.
Clucas turned and teased before chipping a cross to the far post where, from not the easiest of angles, Daniel dispatched an unstoppable volley past Bastock.
The dangerous Locke wasn’t far over with a header from a Comley free kick that should never have been awarded as Daniel slearly won the ball cleanly.
It was game, set and match on 74 minutes as a long ball out to Clucas on the right saw him cut inside and beat Bastock from 18 yards with a low finish that curled inside the far post.
Pilkington was booked for his tug on sub Henry on 76 minutes.
Two minutes later Palmer joined the goal frenzy as he picked up the ball 40 yards from goal and ran at the home defence, getting one lucky bounce from a tackle but, with Clucas shouting for the ball free to his right, drilled a low shot past the keeper from the edge of the box.
On 81 it was six up for the Stags as Palmer flicked on for Meikle on the right and he picked out an unmarked Clucas in front of goal for a tap-in.
Henry sent a looping header over for City as they beavered gamely away with the game already long since lost.
Clucas completed his hat-trick in some style four minutes from time, again from a ball in from Meikle, Clucas then forcing the keeper to the ground before lifting his cool finish cleverly over him.
A minute later Meikle beat the last defender to go one on one with Bastock, the home keeper doing well to thrust up a hand and deny him a goal.
Clucas added his fourth goal in the last minute as the home defence pushed up to leave Palmer offside for a through ball only to see the still alert Clucas burst onto it and chip the advanced Bastock to perfection with the home side hoping on a final whistle as soon as possible.
ST ALBANS CITY: Bastock, Hall, Chappell, Marwa, Kaloczi, Locke, Graham (Henry 51), Comley, Frendo, Nwokeji (Bailey 78), Keenleyside (Watters 82). Subs not used: Taylor, Green, Georgiou, Coulton.
STAGS: Marriott; Sutton, McCombe, Pilkington, Jennings (Black 88); Clucas, McGuire, Howell, Daniel; Stevenson (Meikle 78), Palmer (Poku 90+1). Subs not used: Rhead, Andrew, Murtagh, Deakin.
REFEREE: Mark Heywood of Northwich.
ATTENDANCE: 3,251.CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Sam Clucas.