Mansfield Town had to settle for a point in a tense 1-1 home draw with play-off rivals Luton Town this afternoon.
A big One Call Stadium crowd had seen Alfie Potter’s first gaol for the club separate the sides at the break.
But Danny Hylton’s 26th goal of the season from the spot punished a handball from George Taft on 51 minutes to level it up.
Hylton wasted two good chances to win it while Rhys Bennett also headed over in stoppage time in a thrilling finish.
By half-time the Stags were in eighth place and only outside the play-offs on goal difference.
But the final score, that did little to help either side’s ambitions, left Mansfield in 12th place, still only two points off the top seven, and Luton fourth with three nail-biting games to go.
Striker Shaq Coulthirst returned to Stags’ starting 3-4-1-2 line-up and gave a tireless, energetic display.
The Peterborough loanee replaced Matt Green, who dropped down to the bench.
Having limped off at Wycombe on Friday, Green was a doubt today but declared fit enough to stay in the squad.
Otherwise Steve Evans kept the same side that won 1-0 at Wycombe to keep the play-off dream alive.
Stags began the day two points off the top seven with 61 points in 10th, while Luton, having squandered two home points in a 2-2 draw with doomed Leyton Orient on Friday, still in fourth place on 67 points.
Luton began the game strongly and were convinced they should have a penalty on eight minutes.
Pelly-Ruddock cut inside Bennett on the left and blasted a shot which struck Bennett from point blank range with the Hatters convinced it was handball. But all they were given was a corner.
Potts was then lucky to see play waved on after his elbow caught White in the face with Evans furious with the officials. White was able to continue after treatment.
It had been a physical first 20 minutes with no real chances though Kean had to stretch to save a firm backheader from his own defender as Bennett got a head there before Hylton could reach a cross on 19 minutes.
Mansfield won their first corner on 22 minutes. As it came over Cuthbert appeared to wrestle Taft to the ground and, with Stags players shouting for a penalty, Pearce got a head to the corner only to see Hylton back to clear off the line.
However, a minute later the Stags roared ahead.
Benning’s ball in from the left saw Taft rise to head the ball back towards Potter. His first shot was blocked by a a defender, but Potter kept his cool and smashed the rebound home through a crowd of players from 12 yards.
Sheehan was unhappy after being caught late by Rose and play was allowed to continue. Words were exchanged between the pair and seconds later on 43 minutes Rose again caught him late and this time out came the yellow card.
But Stags went in to huge applause, firmly in the half-time driving seat.
Benning was inches over with a dipping shot from 25 yards just three minutes after the break.
However, Luton were handed a way back into the game on 51 minutes.
Taft clearly handled as Hylton tried to knock the ball past him in the box and the referee pointd to the spot.
Hylton expertly lifted a superb penalty down the centre for his 26th goal of the season and a frustrated Kean was then booked for a shove on Hylton as he went to retrieve the ball out the net.
Stags began to rock a little and a short corner routine for Luton saw Rea just unable to turn the ball home from five yards.
On 59 minutes Mansfield tweaked the formation to 4-4-2 with White replaced by MacDonald.
There were loud boos and chants from the home fans as ex-|Stag Palmer joined the action in place of Vassell on 64 minutes.
Palmer immediately beat two men on the right and lofted in a right wing cross that Hylton headed over from five yards from where he looked an almost certain scorer.
Hamilton came on for Potter as Stags made a second chance with 15 minutes to go.
A last throw of the dice for Stags then saw Green on for Rose on 80 minutes.
With two minutes to go Hylton headed wide from Luton’s sixth corner of the game, again a chance you would expect him to normally put away.
In the four added minutes MacDonald had a long range shot turned aside and Bennett headed over from a corner as time ran out on Mansfield’s efforts..
STAGS: Kean, Bennett, Pearce, Taft, White (MacDonald 59), Whiteman, Byrom, Benning, Potter (Hamilton 75), Coulthirst, Rose (Green 80). Subs not used: Jensen, Collins, Howkins, Arquin.
LUTON: Moore, Justin, Rhea, Cuthbert, Sheehan, Potts (O’Donnell 84), Pelly-Ruddock, Lee, D’Ath, Vassell (Palmer 64), Hylton. Subs not used: Smith, Gray, Marriott, Gambin, King.
REFEREE: Mark Brown of East Yorkshire.
ATTENDANCE: 4,632 (892 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Shaq Coulthirst.