Ryan Tafazolli bagged a brace to help keep Mansfield Town’s late dash for a play-off place alive, as they defeated fellow top-seven hopefuls Exeter City 3-2 at St James’ Park.
Tafazolli gave the visitors a first-half lead, before Mal Benning doubled the advantage with a 40-yard ‘wonder strike’.
Exeter hit back to equalise with goals from Ollie Watkins and substitute Christian Ribiero before Tafazolli hit his sixth goal of the season to leave the Stags six points behind seventh-placed Wimbledon with three to play.
Mansfield were in front on 11 minutes when Exeter failed to clear an in-swinging free-kick from Benning and Tafazolli pounced to side foot home from the edge of the penalty area.
On 55 minutes Colin Daniel had a shot blocked on the line by Bobby Olejnik, but the ball was only cleared as far as Benning who blasted straight into the top corner.
Two minutes later Mansfield keeper Scott Shearer was called into action for the first time when he denied an angled effort from former Derby County winger Lee Holmes.
The hosts managed to pull one back in the 64th minute through a solo effort from Watkins.
Mansfield had the chance for a third in the 78th minute, but Matty Blair was denied by Olejnik with only the big Austrian to beat.
It appeared to have been a costly miss a minute later, when Exeter substitute Ribiero found the target from 30 yards to level matters for the hosts.
However, three minutes later, Tafozolli struck again for Mansfield as he hit the target from 15 yards to complete his brace to put the Stags’ in front again.
In the dying minutes of the game, Mansfield were forced to withstand heavy pressure but held firm to clinch their third successive win.
EXETER CITY: Olejnik, Woodman, Noble, McAllister (Ribeiro 62), Harley, Holmes (Nicholls 62), Moore-Taylor, Watkins, Stockley, Taylor, Brown. Subs not used: Davies, Reid, McCready, Tillson, Pym.
STAGS: Shearer, Daniel, Benning, Collins, Tafazolli, Chapman, Rose (McGuire 70), Thomas (Baxendale HT), Blair, Lambe, Green (Dieseruvwe 84). Subs not used: Jensen, Beardsley, Yussuf, Shires.
REFEREE: Charles Breakspear of Surrey.
ATTENDANCE: 3,407 (77 away).
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