GRIMSBY Town let a lead slip as Lincoln City claimed the derby honours at Blundell Park.
In a typically frantic clash between the Lincolnshire county rivals, the Mariners got themselves in front through captain Craig Disley and looked set to go in at half-time with the advantage after dominating the first half.
But that was not to be, as two Lincoln goals in the last three minutes of the half stunned the hosts and their fans in a bumper, 7,000-plus crowd and turned the tide in favour of the visitors.
A wonder goal from midfielder Charlee Adams was added to by Alan Power in stoppage time and suddenly, Grimsby had a mountain to climb.
Town stuck to their task and created chances but when the vital fourth goal of the game came, it was Lincoln who extended their advantage through Sean Newton and ultimately, sealed all three points.
Town boss Paul Hurst made three changes to his starting XI after the win at Macclesfield two days previously, with one enforced as Toto Nsiala missed out through suspension.
His place was taken by the returning Carl Magnay, which meant Daniel Parslow moved to centre-back.
The other alterations saw Boxing Day goalscorer Jack Mackreth and Scott Brown both drop to the bench, to be replaced by Scott Neilson and Craig Clay.
James McKeown started in goal, with Magnay, Shaun Pearson, Parslow and Aswad Thomas forming the defence.
Neilson began on the right side of midfield, with Clay partnered by Disley in the middle and Nathan Arnold continuing on the left.
That left Lenell John-Lewis and Jon-Paul Pittman as the strikers, with Brown, Mackreth, Paul Bignot, Ross Hannah and Paddy McLaughlin as the substitutes.
Lincoln arrived looking to make it a double over the Mariners this season, following their 3-2 success in the reverse fixture at Sincil Bank in September.
Their line-up included former Town loanees Marcus Marshall and Arnaud Mendy, while pacy striker Delano Sam-Yorke would also be one to watch in the Imps’ line-up.
An early cross from Ben Tomlinson on the Lincoln left was easy for McKeown, before a Town penalty shout came when John-Lewis went down inside the box but nothing was given.
A shot by Clay was blocked at one end and a cross from Marshall blocked at the other as the game started in typically frenetic fashion for a local derby.
Pittman was narrowly beaten to the ball by visiting keeper Paul Farman after a free kick from McKeown had been headed on by John-Lewis.
A spell of away pressure followed and a foul on Mendy gave them a free kick on the left on seven minutes. Sean Newton sent the ball into the box and it fell for Hamza Bencherif at the far post but his shot was blocked by Parslow.
Neilson was just wide of the mark with a 25-yard shot for Town soon afterwards, before John-Lewis won the first corner of the game on 10 minutes. Neilson’s ball from the flag was only half-cleared but Arnold’s return cross was caught by Farman.
A foul on John-Lewis gave the hosts a free kick on the left, midway inside the Lincoln half. Neilson sent the ball to the far post, where Pearson headed it over the bar.
Neilson was involved again on 18 minutes, linking up with Clay on the right for the former Chesterfield man to swing a cross in that led to Arnold winning a corner on the left. His kick was headed behind by Marshall and at the second time of asking, Arnold put the ball out for a goal kick at the far post.
The Mariners took the lead on 21 minutes, when a chipped cross from Pittman on the right fell perfectly for DISLEY to power a header past Farman from 12 yards.
After opening the scoring, the Town skipper also picked up the first yellow card of the game for a foul on Sam-Yorke but the visitors were unable to cause any problems from the resulting free kick, which was headed clear.
Sam-Yorke sent a tame back-heeled shot wide of McKeown’s goal after a low cross from Tomlinson came at the end of a good Lincoln move down the left.
Town were forced into an early substitution when Neilson went down injured on 26 minutes, with Mackreth sent on in his place.
The Mariners almost had a second goal when a long ball forward found Pittman on the left but his cross evaded the run of Mackreth, although a return ball from the right led to a corner.
That quickly led to a further two corners as the home side kept their pressure up. Eventually, the ball dropped for Mackreth but his attempted shot lacked the direction to take it towards goal.
More good play from the Mariners came when John-Lewis found Pittman on the left and he crossed for Mackreth at the far post but the ball was just too high for the winger to be able to keep his header down and the ball looped over the bar.
Tomlinson was booked for a foul and soon afterwards, he was guilty of sending a wild shot well wide at the end of a now-rare Lincoln attack, with Grimsby now dominating the game.
A foul on Thomas gave Arnold another chance to swing a free kick into the danger zone from the left on 40 minutes but Farman did well to get there first and punch the ball clear.
The visitors had created little but they were almost back on level terms three minutes before the break when Newton unleashed a low volley from 25 yards, which McKeown did well to get to and make a superb save to tip it around the post.
Town’s luck was not to last though, as from the resulting corner, the visitors had their equaliser when the ball from the flag was only half-cleared and ADAMS hit a spectacular 30-yard shot that flew into the top corner of the net.
Two added minutes were signalled at the end of the half and the Mariners immediately set out to regain their lead.
But instead, it was Lincoln who stole the advantage when Marshall was given space to attack Thomas down the right. He got past the left-back and sent a low cross over, which was converted by POWER at the far post.
The Mariners, and the home supporters, had been stunned by Lincoln’s two goals in three minutes at the end of the half, after it had looked like the men in black and white would take what would have been a deserved lead into the dressing rooms at the interval.
Instead, they now faced having to come from behind to get back into the game, although their overall performance throughout the first half had hinted that the contest was far from over.
Bignot replaced Magnay for Town before the restart and the substitute was involved in the home side’s first attack of the second half, crossing from the right for John-Lewis to head wide.
A huge let-off for the hosts came when a poor clearance from McKeown went straight to Sam-Yorke but when he played it back across goal to the unmarked Power, the offside flag went up.
At the other end, a shot by Arnold was held by Farman, before a run from John-Lewis led to a corner that came to nothing as Lincoln brought the ball clear.
Town seemed to be getting closer though and they almost had an equaliser when John-Lewis linked up with Mackreth but the ex-Macclesfield winger’s 20-yard shot was tipped over the bar by Farman.
A foul by Bignot on Power gave Lincoln a free kick midway inside the Grimsby half on 57 minutes. Newton’s shot hit the Town wall and his effort from the rebound was held by McKeown.
Thomas then won a corner at the other end but Pearson could not direct his header towards goal from Arnold’s delivery.
Jon Nolan replaced Mendy for the visitors just before the hour and they almost had a chance to extend their lead when good vision from Power saw him hit a cross-field ball for Tomlinson, who failed to connect with a volley.
The game was moving from end to end and Pittman found his way into the Lincoln box soon afterwards, cutting in from the right but seeing his shot blocked.
Seconds later, the away side had a great opportunity to make it 3-1 when Power picked the ball up in midfield and raced clear before passing to Tomlinson, whose shot was touched onto the bar by McKeown before the rebound was put over the top.
John-Lewis won a corner as both sides continued to attack but again, Pearson headed over the bar.
Tomlinson was replaced by Jordan Burrow for Lincoln on 68 minutes and a minute later, the visitors doubled their advantage as they made it 3-1. Again, Marshall was the architect, running down the right before giving the ball to Sam-Yorke. He sent a low ball across the six-yard line and NEWTON was there to bundle it into the net from close range.
Pittman hit a first-time shot high and wide from 25 yards as the Mariners looked for a lifeline but Lincoln were now on top and in the ascendancy and they won another free kick when Sam-Yorke was fouled on the left, although it did not lead to a goalscoring opportunity.
An opportunity for Town to get a goal back came with 12 minutes on the clock when a free kick from Arnold fell for Parslow but his shot was saved by Farman, who dived to stop the ball.
Pittman was also blocked by the keeper after doing well to get a shot away at the end of a run from the left and across the penalty area.
John-Lewis then had a shot cleared off the line after god work by Mackreth as the home side kept looking for a route back into the game.
McLaughlin came on for the last five minutes of the game in place of Clay after Power had been shown a yellow card for the visitors.
Town kept attacking through the two added minutes but with Farman remaining untroubled, it was the 800-plus travelling supporters from Lincoln who were left to celebrate the victory.
The Mariners are next in action on New Year’s Day, when Macclesfield Town are the visitors to Blundell Park.