Mansfield Town may have been comprehensively beaten 4-1 at Championship side Sheffield Wednesday tonight in their Capital One Cup first round tie, but their never-say-die attitude won them a lot of friends at Hillsborough.
Trailing 2-0 to two goals in six minutes by Lucas Joao and Jose Semedo and under constant pressure, Stags were given a 45th minute lifeline by Ryan Tafazolli, who was also excellent at the back.
Chris Beardsley then came desperately close to levelling before Keiran Lee slotted in a third on 53 minutes.
Even then Adam Murray’s men kept going forward and refused to lie down, only finally finished off when Modou Sougou scored a fourth six minutes from time.
Wednesday looked a class outfit from start to finish and fully deserved to progress.
But the Stags can look forward to the pressure cooker of the Notts County derby at Meadow Lane on Friday night knowing they will come up against very different opposition.
With three games in seven days and a massive game ahead on Friday, boss Murray left out Matt Green, Krystian Pearce, Mitch Rose and Reggie Lambe, though Rose and Lambe were on the bench.
In for a full debut came young centre half Corbin Shires as did ex-Stags striker Chris Beardsley plus there were first starts for Craig Westcarr, another of the summer’s 13 new faces, and Jack Thomas in midfield.
The Owls made wholesale changes with nine players left out from the side that beat Bristol City 2-0 on Saturday.
Wednesday settled quickly and forced two early corners while Loez was too high with a first time shot from 20 yards.
The Championship side made the early pressure tell on 13 minutes after Benning conceded a free kick wide on the right.
Lopez floated it into the middle of goal where Joao was afforded an easy header that gave Shearer no chance.
Within six minutes it was 2-0 and hopes of an upset seemingly in tatters, Shearer again beaten by a close range header.
This time Sougou whipped in a far post cross from wide on the right and Semedo out-muscled Hunt at the far post to guide home another unstoppable finish.
Only a great interception at full stretch by Tafazolli prevented Joao turning home a low Sougou cross from six yards out on 27 minutes as Wednesday looked to press home their advantage and put Stags to the sword.
Sougou tested Shearer from 30 yards, but the keeper was always behind it as Mansfield continued to soak up the pressure.
Stags were struggling to get out of their own half, though their spirits were lifted somewhat by a great box to box burst by Jack Thomas after a quick Shearer throw.
It came to nothing but did inspire a bit of possession and on 39 minutes at least got a shot away as Beardsley pulled a low ball back from the left by-line and Nathan Thomas hooked a first time finish over the far angle.
On 42 minutes Sougou again got down the left and pulled a clever low cross into the path of Lavery, who should have done better but sidefooted a low finish straight at Shearer from 12 yards.
On 44 minutes home keeper Wildsmith finally had work to do as Beardsley met a far post Jack Thomas cross with a firm header that the keeper had to parry one-handed.
And from that 45th minute corner, out of the blue and very much against the run of play, Stags grabbed themselves a lifeline.
Chapman curled the corner in from the left and Tafazolli was on hand to turn the ball over the line in an untidy scramble in front of goal, Wildsmith appearing to get a hand to it but unable to keep it out.
Wednesday returned for the second half very early, hungry to make amends for allowing Mansfield unexpected hope.
Within five minutes Mansfield were almost level. Chapman initially won the ball and it found Jack Thomas on the right who hoisted a far post cross towards Beardsley.
His header was on target but hit home skipper Leeds and passed the wrong wide of the post.
Instead it was the home side who again stretched their lead out to two goals with a third on 53 minutes. Joao’s pass sent Lee away on goal and he slotted the ball coolly past Shearer.
Stags sent on Shrewsbury loanee Caton for a debut on 57 minutes in place of Nathan Thomas.
Two minutes later Murray made both his other two changes as Yussuf and McGuire replaced Westcarr and Jack Thomas.
Home sub Matias could have made a big impact but failed to put away two chances in as many minutes, sending one searing volley wide.
Yussuf might have pulled Stags back in it again with 19 minutes to go as he poked a low shot at goal from 18 yards that Wildsmith had to get down to block, though it didn’t carry the venom it needed.
Mansfield came even closer on 75 minutes as a lovely floated cross from the left was straight into the head of Beardsley whose header sailed across the face of goal and agonisingly dropped just wide of the far post.
Then Lambe wasn’t far wide after a clever pass from Clements picked him out.
But the home side rubbed salt in the wounds on 84 minutes as they added a fourth.
Helan pulled the ball back to him from the left by-line and Sougou was in acres of space running into the box to lash past Shearer from the penalty spot.
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Wildsmith, Palmer, Semedo, Lavery (Matias 51), Lees, Wiggins, Joao (Helan 75), Lee, Lopez (Hutchinson 57), Sasso, Sougou. Subs not used: Dawson, Nuhiu, McGugan, Wallace.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Shearer, Benning, Chapman, Clements, Beardsley, Westcarr (Yussuf 59), Nathan Thomas (Caton 57), Tafazolli, Hunt, Jack Thomas (McGuire 59), Shires. Subs not used: Jensen, Marsden, Rose, Lambe.
REFEREE: Mark Brown of East Yorkshire.
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Ryan Tafazolli.