Mansfield Town stormed to the top of the league tonight with another superb away result, beating promotion rivals Forest Green Rovers to extend their new club record to nine straight wins.
It was a ninth away win in 10 trips and a 13th win in 14 matches, though not the most exciting of games for the watching live TV audience until, trailing 2-0, Rovers stole a late reply to set up a thrilling finish.
A poor first half, played in driving rain, saw few chances at either end, the only score being an own goal by Eddie Oshodi on 29 minutes as he diverted a Limdon Meikle shot past his own keeper.
Lee Stevenson stroked home a superb second from Matt Green’s through ball two minutes into the second half as unchanged Mansfield turned in a thoroughly professional performance.
But, just when it seemed they were home and dry on a soaking wet night, James Norwood snatched a goal back with three minutes to go.
However, Mansfield held out to go two points clear at the top overnight with Wrexham at home to Luton tomorrow before the Welsh club host a visit from Stags on Tuesday night in what could be a crucial clash.
The town of Nailsworth had suffered heavy rain all day but, despite huge puddles in the car park, a heavy pitch and continuing rain, the game was able to go ahead.
Despite the weather, the night began with some top entertainment with the Rock Choir.
Rovers just managed to clear a long Chapman throw from the right in the first 45 seconds and another before the second minute was out.
Then a Chapman free kick from well out on the left had Russell panicking for a second as it landed on the roof of his net.
Murray overhit a through ball for Green as the ball skidded towards the safety of the keeper’s arms.
Rovers finally threatened on six minutes as Forbes threaded Burns into space on the left of the box, the Rovers man hurrying his finish and slicing comfortably wide.
On 15 minutes a superb piece of skill from Forbes on the halfway line saw him accelerate quickly and race into space before reaching the edge of the box and spoiling his big moment with a weak, scuffed shot to a grateful Marriott.
Daniel was wide at the far post as he strained to direct his header from a curling far post cross by Murray as the game continued to disappoint on 21 minutes.
Rovers then cleared the first two corners of the night, won in succession by the visitors.
On 27 minutes Cox made a change as he replaced winger Daniel with Briscoe, Meikle moving across to the left flank.
And within two minutes Stags had grabbed the lead with a helping hand from the home side.
Meikle was in space just outside the box and tried a low shot which saw Oshodi stretch out a leg and inadvertently turn it past his own keeper.
Beevers was booked for diving it late with his tackle on Green 12 minutes from the break. The free kick was then headed over by a home head amid a crowd of players leaping together.
On 38 minutes Burns raced away from Beevers down the left, played a return pass with Norwood and, instead of crossing as expected from a tight angle, tried to catch Marriott napping at his near post, the keeper turning his powerful blast round for a corner.
On 41 minutes Briscoe turned 20 yards out and smashed a thunderbolt of a shot on target that actually knocked keeper Russell off his feet as he somehow turned it round.
From the corner by Jennings, Jones was wide with his far post header.
Stags almost doubled their lead with the last action of the half as Dempster got up well at the far post to meet a Jennings free kick with an on-target header that beat Russell only to see Paul Green clear off the goal line.
Mansfield could not have made a better start to the second half as Stevenson did make it 2-0.
Rovers were caught square at the back as Green rolled a great pass into the path of Stevenson, who always looked confident enough as he bore down on Russell that he would slip the finish past him like the instinctive goalscorer he is.
Norwood was too high with a rising 25 yard shot in reply.
On 59 minutes a poor ball out of defence by Dempster gifted the ball back to Rovers and a square pass to Norwood saw him blaze a rising shot past Marriott only to see it cannon back off the crossbar.
More Rovers pressure saw Burns show strength to hold off Jennings on the by-line and find sub Klukowski, who turned on the corner of the six yard box and zipped the ball right across the face of goal.
To try to shut up shop a little, Cox sent on Howell for Stevenson with 64 minutes gone.
Time was getting short for Forest Green and Burns was wide of the far post from 20 yards with a skilful curling effort off the outside of his right boot.
Rhead gave Green a rest up front for the final 14 minutes.
Rovers piled on the pressure near the end, winning a couple of corners, And they should have scored from the second as it was flicked on at the near post to racine who, three yards from goal, somehow lifted it high over the bar.
From a Mansfield corner the home side broke well, Norwood racing on to send a final, tame low shot straight at Marriott.
But Norwood did set up a gradstand finish with three minutes to go as Green’s tricky run caused the inital problems in the box and, as he was halted, the ball ran loose for Norwood to sweep home.
Murray was booked a minute later for hacking down Green as the nerves began to jangle.
The agony increased as Rovers won a corner with the fourth official holding up a board announcing five extra minutes.
It was Briscoe who got the first shot away in that time after a great run down the right, Russell safely behind it.
It was hard to watch those closing stages, but Jones and Dempster were immense in the air and Murray fittingly, after a great wholehearted display, made a telling clearance into touch to end the final home attack.
FOREST GREEN: Russell, Hodgkiss, Stokes, Bangura (Klukowski 60), Forbes, Oshodi, Norwood, Racine, Paul Green, Odubade (Taylor 53), Burns (Fowler 83). Subs not used: Bennett, Asafu-Adjaye.
STAGS: Marriott; Beevers, Jones, Dempster, Jennings; Chapman, Murray, Stevenson (Howell 64; Meikle, Matt Green (Rhead 76), Daniel (Briscoe 27). Subs not used: Sutton, Wright.
REFEREE: Wayne Barrett.
ATTENDANCE: 1,109 (166 away).