Mansfield Town edged to within two points of leaders Lincoln City this afternoon – but struggling visitors Macclesfield Town made them fight all the way for the 3-1 win.
Stags failed to build on Jorge Grant’s eighth minute opener and just before the break Callum Evans deservedly levelled for Sol Campbell’s men while Scott Wilson struck the home post soon after.
Stags stepped up a gear after the break and skipper Krystian Pearce restored the lead from close range.
But it was a nervous afternoon until Tyler Walker’s 20th goal of the season in the last minute finally made the points safe.
Stags were roared on by a big home crowd, boosted by a free tickets for U18s offer – and they were put through the mill at times as the visitors refused to lie down.
Unchanged for a third game in a row, Stags went immediately forward and Ajose was caught offside.
But on two minutes Marsh was allowed to run and his speculative 30 yards effort did not float too far over the far angle as the visitors made a lively start.
Walker finally sent a cutting pass into the Macc box where Welch-Hayes was quick to rob Ajose before he could pull the trigger.
But Stags were ahead on eight minutes. Hamilton began the move down the right and when Ajose had a shot saved, the ball rolled back for Grant to tuck calmly away inside the right hand post – his fourth goal in three games.
Walker was too high from 20 yards on 16 minutes when the ball broke for him from a throw.
Benning then robbed Hodgkiss and got to the by-line but was unable to pick out a yellow shirt as Stags kept up the pressure.
However, the visitors were still well in the game and Smith was finally tested on 32 minutes as Evans set up Cole for a shot from the edge of the box that was straight at the keeper.
On 35 minutes Grant curled a 30 yard free kick into the sidenetting with a few home fans believing it had gone in as the net rippled.
Then Walker had a shot deflect wide with the keeper stranded.
But with three minutes to go to the break the visitors hauled themselves level.
Rose had a shot deflect wide for a corner. He put that over low to the near post where it was only cleared as far as Evans who drilled a low finish through everyone from just inside the box.
Stags were then fortunate to go into half-time still level as Wilson broke on the left and sent a shot across Smith that came back off the far post and Preston came up with a magnificent block to keep out Cole’s follow-up.
Immediately on the restart Kelleher superbly blocked Hamilton’s finish after he had swapped passes in the box with Grant.
But Stags had Smith to thank for saving their bacon when were caught square at the back on 54 minutes and Rose sent Wilson through on goal, the keeper standing firm to make the block.
Ajose had a header saved at the other end a minute later.
But Stags were back ahead from a 57th minute corner which saw a melee end with Pearce forcing it home from close range off Evans on the line.
Soon after Grant cut inside as Hamilton made a dummy run outside him and curled a low shot into the sidenetting.
An error from Sweeney on 65 minutes saw Smith again have to save, though Marsh’s curling finish was straight at him.
Macc sub Ntambwe was booked within nine minutes of coming on for hauling back Bishop, Grant too high with the free kick.
Another break by the gutsy visitors ended with Cole firing too high from 18 yards.
On 72 minutes Stags broke well after Macc pressure and Walker’s dipping 20 yard effort was superbly tipped over by O’Hara.
Having brought Rose on for Ajose, Stags shored things up for the last eight minutes as new boy, defender Jones, made his home debut in place of Hamilton.
The points were wrapped up in the final minute from a corner as another scramble saw O’Hara grasp Walker’s close range shot but the linesman indicate it was already over the line, bringing relief all round.
MANSFIELD: J. Smith; Sweeney, Pearce, Preston; Hamilton (Jones 82), Bishop, Mellis (Atkinson 89), Benning; Grant; Walker, Ajose (Rose 72). Subs not used: Logan, A. Smith, Law, Khan.
MACCLESFIELD: O’Hara, Hodgkiss, Kelleher, Marsh (Biabi 68), Wilson, Welch-Hayes, Evans (Lloyd 76), Maycock (Ntambwe 56), Rose, Cameron, Cole. Subs not used: Idem, Fitzpatrick, Jules, Mullings.
REFEREE: Michael Salisbury of Lancashire.
ATTENDANCE: 5,642 (236 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Jorge Grant.