With just eight minutes left Mansfield Town looked to have all but sealed three vital points against bottom club Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday.
But in a thrilling finish at One Call Stadium, the Stags were left clinging onto those points by their very fingertips after a dramatic finish saw two more goals, a missed penalty and a red card that left the home side with 10 men.
Even at 3-2 up with a minute to go, it took a fantastic save by keeper Scott Shearer to keep out a close range Ashley Chambers header and prevent what would have been a final twist to the tale.
Click HERE to read the full match report
Click HERE to read boss Adam Murray’s post-match thoughts
Click HERE to see video highlights of the game
Click HERE to read John Lomas’ blog on the play-offs run-in
But in the end Stags extended their run to one loss in six and moved back up into fifth place.
This season’s two clashes with the Daggers should have carried health warnings for those with heart problems or those of a nervous disposition.
The Stags did their best to throw away the points in East London before two late goals won them the day in a 4-3 thriller.
On Saturday, for the second successive home match, the game exploded on a controversial penalty decision.
On 82 minutes veteran sub Jamie Cureton raced towards the box and he and Krystian Pearce made contact.
First instinct from most angles suggested a penalty, and to make matters worse Pearce was shown a straight red card.
However, referee Sebastian Stockbridge was not up with play and his assistant not in line with an incident that replays show was clearly outside the box.
A frame by frame clip of the challenge also seem to show Pearce moving his arms away from Cureton and the Daggers man making the contact and going down.
But the officials had a decision to make there and then and, harsh as it was on Mansfield, the card and penalty stood. So raw and natural justice was done as Cureton made a howler of his spot kick when he chipped it high and wide of the target.
When Stags broke downfield a minute later and Matty Blair set up Matt Green for a cool, low finish for his 11th goal of the season, it seemed the game was over, sub Adi Yussuf deserving of much credit too after wrestling for the ball to set Blair away.
But the 10 men were caught out when Cureton atoned for his penalty miss from close range with a tap-in after a far post cross was pulled back across from the left by-line by Clevid Dikamona.
The jitters quickly set in and it was left to Shearer to provide the final drama with his save.
The afternoon had begun in sombre fashion with a perfectly observed minute’s silence for ex-Stags winger Johnny Miller, who had died last Thursday.
Stags, playing with wing backs and giving Swansea loanee Dan Alfei what proved to be an impressive full debut, then had the better of the first half exchanges, though both keepers had saves to make.
But Dagenham, with just one point from their last five games, struck on the counter on 42 minutes as Joe Widdowson drilled a low ball in from the left through everyone, allowing Oliver Hawkins to open his League goals account with a simple far post tap-in.
It was another scrappy goal to concede – but Stags did not deserve the boos they got while boss Murray certainly didn’t deserve the abuse he received as he disappeared down the tunnel.
It took only nine minutes for Mansfield, now tweaked to 4-4-2, to level as Ryan Tafazolli flicked on a Mal Benning free kick and Blair smashed home an 18-yard half-volley off the inside of the post.
Daggers keeper Liam O’Brien made three good saves before Yussuf shook off the embarrassment of ‘Wee-Gate’ at Plymouth last weekend to power away on the end of a Chris Clements through ball and slot superbly home to mark his 24th birthday in style.
That should have been that, but in true Mansfield Town style, all the drama was still to come as a lower-than-expected gate were put through the wringer.
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