Mansfield Town 1, Fleetwood Town 1. Fleetwood stretched their unbeaten league run to 23 games but an injury-time equaliser by Exodus Geohaghon denied the Conference leaders a 12th win out of 13 in 2012.
Top scorer Jamie Vardy’s 28th goal of the season looked to have sealed the points for Micky Mellon’s side with nine minutes left on the clock only for Geohaghon to rise to meet a corner and earn the fourth-placed Stags a precious point in their quest to secure a play-off place.
That equaliser was particularly well received at Wrexham, who moved within three points of Town – with a game in hand – after their 5-0 win at Ebbsfleet, where player-boss and former Seasiders striker Andy Morrell netted twice. The Welshman now have an identical goal difference to Town.
Midfielder Lee Fowler kept his place in Fleetwood’s starting line-up after making an influential contribution as an early substitute in Friday’s win at Kidderminster. Town were otherwise unchanged.
Mansfield, on a five-match winning run and beaten only once in 12, conceded successive free-kicks as the game gathered pace and Town dominated the early exchanges.
Vardy almost produced an opportunity for Richard Brodie and the tall striker looked full of running in front of a vociferous crowd at Field Mill.
There was some good interplay by Town in the final third, prompted by Fowler from midfield.
Stags goalkeeper Alan Marriott was tested for the first time when Vardy found some space before hitting a left-foot shot which the keeper tipped wide to his right after 25minutes.
Two minutes later, Fowler tried to surprise Marriott from almost halfway as the keeper failed to get distance on his clearance.
In the opposite goal, Scott Davies had to be at his instinctive best just after the half hour, when Luke O’Neill’s floating free-kick was met by Ross Dyer in front of goal.
The Town keeper got his frame behind the ball and danger was cleared. There were bookings for former Town player Jon Worthington and for the visitors’ Peter Cavanagh, for a foul on Worthington.
Brodie hit a free-kick embarrassingly wide after 37 minutes, but he almost atoned just before the break with a high cross from the left which Jamie McGuire headed on to the top of the goal.
Town started the second half brightly, with Cavanagh earning a corner from a crisp right-foot shot.
McGuire then had two chances from free-kicks by Fowler. The second of these was headed against the post before rebounding into Marriott’s hands.
Brodie had the best chance so far when one-on-one with Marriott just before the hour but could not capitalise.
Vardy was booked for a challenge on Marriott and then fired straight at the keeper in the 65th minute, causing a split second of anxiety as he made contact following up.
Mansfield created pressure but Town defended resolutely. Murray was booked for dissent in the 70th minute, one of a number of refereeing decisions which did not please the large home contingent in the 3,132 crowd.
Brodie fired wide after 72 minutes, having shrugged off his marker. He was replaced by Peter Till five minutes later, while Meikle was replaced by Louis Briscoe for Mansfield.
Vardy then made the decisive breakthrough. The prolific striker chested down a ball from Fowler before firing past Marriott to the delight of the Cod Army behind the goal.
Immediately after play restarted, Davies came to Town’s rescue, tipping a shot by Matt Green wide for a corner as it seemed destined to go inside the far post.
Gareth Seddon replaced Mangan for the closing moments but it was Geohaghon who had the final say.
After he headed in a corner from the right, the Stags supporters raced down the stand behind the goal to share their team’s joy as Town narrowly failed to hang on for a 16th away win of the season.
Mansfield: Marriott, Riley, O’Neill, Sutton, Geohaghan, Worthington (Rhead 82), Murray, Howell, Green, Dyer, Meikle (Briscoe 79), not used: Redmond, Andrew, Hutchinson
Fleetwood: Davies, Beeley, McNulty, Pond, Goodall, Cavanagh, McGuire, Fowler, Brodie (Till 76), Mangan (Seddon 84), Vardy; not used: Stephenson, Charnock, Rose.
Ref: R Joyce; Att: 3,132 .