Shirebrook Town’s unbeaten six-game run in NCEL Division One came to an end on Tuesday night when they went down 3-2 at home to AFC Mansfield.
The reverse fixture at the start of January saw a dramatic late comeback from Mansfield, who were three down with 15 minutes to play, to come back and draw 3-3.
The 348 inside Langwith Road witnessed the sequel live up to the billing as Mansfield leapfrogged near rivals Shirebrook up to fourth and two points off the top.
In a game that swung one way then the next, Tommy Hannigan gave the visitors from Nottinghamshire a 12th minute lead until Keiron Watson levelled for the Derbyshire hosts.
Liam Morris then looked to have given Shirebrook the advantage just before the break only for Craig Mitchell to equalise for Mansfield on the stroke of half-time.
The two sides were locked in combat until Glyn Cotton found the key for Mansfield when he scored what proved to be the winner just three minutes from the 90.
It’s now ten games unbeaten in all competitions for Mansfield, who have won their last six ahead of Saturday’s visit of Tadcaster Albion in the fifth round of the FA Vase.
The bumper 348 crowd who braved a very cold night were treated to another rip roaring local derby, with both teams needing the points to continue their promotion push.
AFC Mansfield had two debutants starting, Jimmy Ghaichem signed from Scarborough Athletic and Tommy Hannigan from Rainworth MW. Shirebrook started with a more settled side after last week’s 5-0 win at Bottesford Town.
It was the visitors who started the better of the two sides, taking the game to Shirebrook with ex-Shirebrook midfielder Joe Naylor firing over the bar on three minutes.
Another good move on nine minutes saw Declan Brewin feed Ryan Williams on the right flank. The winger’s cross found Craig Mitchell but the striker lifted his effort high and wide.
The Bulls took the lead on 12 minutes after more pressure on the home goal and, when the ball was only half cleared by Dale Sheppard, it dropped to Tommy Hannigan who drove home from 12 yards.
This sparked wild celebrations within the AFC supporters and a red smoke bomb was let off something not usually seen in local non-league football.
The other debutant Ghaichem thought he had scored as well on 22 minutes. Receiving a knock down from Mitchell his low drive had Sheppard stretching to turn it around the post.
A bizzare turn of events around the half-hour mark when the game was halted by referee Lee Freeman due to an injury he had sustained.
The man in the middle swapped places with assistant Mehdi Najefi and the game got back underway. Freeman was replaced for the second half on the line by local official Jamie O’Connor.
Shirebrook must have thought they were about to equalise on 36 minutes when Jamie York went down in the box from a challenge by Ash Kitchen.
Kieren Watson stepped up and drove the ball to Jason White’s right only for the keeper to block Watson’s initial kick and then quickly get back to his feet to block the same man’s follow up.
White was in action again on 40 minutes with a fingertip save over the bar from Liam Morris. It was a good passage of play for the home side and they equalised through Watson on 41 minutes.
The striker pounced on a deflection when AFC failed to clear their lines to fire home from eight yards.
Shirebrook then took the lead when a Morris raced on to a through ball to shoot past White from 12 yards on 44 minutes.
Late goals against Shirebrook are The Bulls’ raison d’etre and rising talent Declan Brewin pulled the ball back for Mitchell 30 seconds before the half time whistle and the ball hitting the back of the net was inevitable.
Both sides battled against a difficult and freezing by the minute surface to entertain the crowd in the second half. Mitchell had the chance to put The Bulls in front on 56 minutes. The striker getting on the end of a Williams cross only to see Sheppard turn it behind for a corner.
Naylor tried his luck from 20 yards on 72 minutes but Sheppard was equal to it and the game had a draw written all over it.
But we had forgotten AFC Mansfield’s love of late goals and with just three minutes to go of normal time Glyn Cotton produced a finish worthy of winning any game.
His curling 25-yard free-kick had ex-Bulls keeper Sheppard at full stretch but still found the top corner of the net.
The referee then inexplicably found 12 minutes of added time but The Bulls stood firm to take the points and moved up to fourth in the league.
Shirebrook Town: Sheppard, Hanson (c), Dawson (Chambers), Nelthorpe, Plant, Campion, York (Shepperd), Barnett (Getliff), Morris, Dennis, Watson. Subs not used: Cook, Green.
AFC Mansfield: White, Hannigan, Dudley, Kitchen, Timons (C) (Ludlow 45), Naylor J, Williams R, Cotton, Brewin, Mitchell (Naylor D 64), Ghaichem (Buxton 70). Subs not used: Rick and Whitman.
Referee: Mr Lee Freeman (South Yorkshire).
Assistants: Mr Mehdi Najefi (South Yorkshire) and Mr Neil Allsop (Nottinghamshire).
Men of the Match: Shirebrook - Gareth Campion; AFC Mansfield - Declan Brewin.