GRIMSBY Town’s automatic promotion hopes took a blow as they were beaten by fellow promotion contenders Mansfield Town at the One Call Stadium.
The Mariners played well for long periods against one of the division’s form sides and bossed the first half, albeit without finding a breakthrough.
They were made to pay when Mansfield pressure in the early stages after the break led to substitute Matt Rhead opening the scoring from a corner.
Town looked for a way back into the game and with 806 travelling fans roaring them on, they created further opportunities but could not find a way past home keeper Alan Marriott.
And the home side made the points safe eight minutes from time, when Adam Chapman made it 2-0.
Three changes were made to the Town side that lost at home to Kidderminster on Saturday, with Sam Hatton, Shaun Pearson and Jamie Devitt all coming in.
Bradley Wood, Andi Thanoj and Joe Colbeck were the men to make way, although Thanoj and Colbeck were both named on the bench.
James McKeown started in goal, with Hatton, Pearson, Ian Miller and Aswad Thomas making up the defence.
Devitt began on the left of midfield, with Tom Naylor moving forward to partner Craig Disley in the middle and Marcus Marshall switching to the right.
Ross Hannah and Andy Cook were again named as the strikers, with Richard Brodie, Lennell John-Lewis and Dougie Wilson joining Thanoj and Colbeck as substitutes.
The Mariners travelled to Norttinghamshire looking to keep their title chances on track with a priceless victory.
Their hosts were looking to continue an excellent run of form that has seen Paul Cox’s side win 11 of their last 12 games and also establish themselves as Blue Square Bet Premier promotion contenders.
Leading scorer Matt Green would have been looking to add to his 16 league goals so far this season.
Midfielder Chapman would be another threat after netting a hat-trick on his Stags debut in the 4-1 victory over Stockport last time out after signing on loan from Oxford.
Town began brightly, seeing plenty of the ball in attacking areas down the right but it was the home side who created the first chance when a cross from the right found Green but he shot at McKeown.
A long throw from Chapman then caused problems for the Grimsby defence, with Pearson having to clear.
A foul on Devitt inside the Mansfield half gave the Mariners a free kick on the left on eight minutes but Devitt’s delivery into the box was headed away from danger.
James Jennings was fouled by Marshall on the home left soon afterwards but his free kick to the penalty spot was dealt with by Naylor.
A strong run by Marshall then almost led to Hannah getting free down the right but Mansfield recovered, before a cross from Hatton had to be headed out for the first corner of the game.
Devitt and Marshall played a short corner routine before Devitt found Disley on the edge of the area. Then skipper hit a powerful shot that Marriott could not hold but the offside flag went up against Hannah as he put the rebound over the bar.
Both sides were looking to attack in the early stages and a good home move on 15 minutes saw the ball reach Colin Daniel on the left but his cross sailed out for a goal kick.
At the other end, Hannah cut in from the left to fire a shot from 20 yards but Marriott was equal to it.
The game was moving from end to end at pace and McKeown had to claw a header away from his top corner soon afterwards, with the ball ricocheting out for a goal kick.
A foul on Devitt saw Chapman pick up the first yellow card of the game after the winger had done well to win the ball on halfway and make progress into the Mansfield half.
Hatton’s free kick hit the home wall but Devitt picked up the rebound and won a corner, which led to Cook heading over the bar.
Town were having the better of things and Naylor tested Marriott with a shot from 20 yards, before another corner on the left came to nothing.
A cross from Marshall on the right had to be headed behind for another corner as Cook looked to profit at the far post and after it was half-cleared, Devitt’s second cross went through to Marriott ahead of Naylor.
A foul by Pearson gave Mansfield a free kick in a dangerous position, 25 yards from goal, on 28 minutes. Chapman’s shot deflected off the Town wall for a corner, which did not lead to a goalscoring opportunity.
Town had played well in the opening half-hour, taking the game to their hosts and searching for an opening goal.
But Mansfield began to come into the game as the interval approached, with another Chapman long throw looking dangerous before Thomas cleared it from inside the penalty area.
A great ball from Hatton found Marshall on the left on 42 minutes but the winger was stopped by a good challenge from defender Lee Beevers after he advanced into the box.
Hannah had his shirt pulled by John Dempster as he looked to get into the box from the right a minute before half-time. The defender was booked and hatton’s floated delivery was headed away.
Seconds later, Hatton himself was booked for a foul near the halfway line as Mansfield looked to break.
Two added minutes were played at the end of what had been a richly entertaining first half.
The long throw of Chapman was again put to use in the first of those added minutes but the danger was cleared by Naylor.
That proved to be the last goalmouth action of the half, with the game remaining goalless at the break.
Thanoj replaced Disley for Town before the restart and Mansfield made the better start to the second half, with another long throw hurled into the box by Chapman, which led to Lindon Meikle having a shot blocked.
A foul on Cook by Luke Jones gave hatton a chance to send the ball into the Mansfield box and the full-back’s flat delivery was headed on towards goal but Marriott pulled off a fantastic fingertip save to ensure the only damage was a Town corner.
The Mariners continued to attack and soon afterwards, Devitt got to the by-line and pulled the ball back but Hannah could only head over the bar.
A run through the middle by Naylor was halted by a foul right on the edge of the penalty area seven minutes in. Hatton’s free kick hit the wall and broke to Devitt but he was crowded out by home defenders.
Matt Rhead replaced Lee Stevenson for the hosts on 56 minutes, with the game still moving from end to end and both sides looking for a breakthrough goal.
Thomas had to concede a corner six minutes later as Mansfield enjoyed a period of pressure on the Town defence. And with Miller off the field after receiving treatment on an injury, the hosts took full advantage, with RHEAD heading home at the far post.
Town looked to hit back immediately as Naylor drove an effort from the right of the penalty area but Marriott dived to stop the shot.
Mansfield could have made it 2-0 when Rhead burst through the middle but his shot was sliced, before Devitt fired over the bar at the other end.
Colbeck came on for Marshall on 65 minutes and he had a chance to cross soon afterwards after a good ball from Cook but the winger’s ball flashed across goal with nobody there to get on the end of it.
Louis Briscoe replaced Meikle for the hosts with 18 minutes left on the clock and the substitute won a corner on the right two minutes later. From it, the home fans thought they had doubled their lead when a header looked to be heading goal wards but the referee had seen an infringement and blew for a Grimsby free kick.
Town were still looking to get back into the game and Devitt got into a good position on 75 minutes but when he pulled the ball back, Marriott dived on it to stop the attack.
The Mariners crafted another opportunity four minutes later, when Devitt found Thomas on the left and his cross was met by Hannah but the striker could only fire his overhead shot into the travelling Town fans massed behind the goal.
Brodie replaced the hardworking Hannah for the last ten minutes, with the game still in the balance.
Town were showing signs of getting back into the contest but their hopes took a huge blow when Mansfield doubled their lead with eight minutes left. Green did well on the left and pulled the ball back for CHAPMAN, who hit a superb 25-yard shot into the top corner of McKeown’s net.
Brodie looked to find a way through the home defence with two minutes left but he was thwarted by an excellent tackle inside the box.
To their credit, the Mariners kept attacking and a foul on Devitt gave them a free kick on the right on 89 minutes. Devitt’s initial delivery was poor but he got a second chance with a cross that was headed at Marriott by Naylor.
Four added minutes were played at the end of the game and Mansfield closed out the victory that underlined their promotion credentials.
Town were left to reflect on a second consecutive defeat against one of their rivals at the top end of the table after Kidderminster’s victory at Blundell Park last time out.
The Mariners will now look to bounce back when they welcome Cambridge United to Cleethorpes on Saturday.