MANSFIELD Town will be in the draw for tomorrow’s FA Cup third round after subsitute Matt Rhead rescued an unlikely replay after scoring two minutes into stoppage time.
Paul Cox’s men looked like they would be knocked out of their second cup competition in a matter of days as they trailed David Holdsworth’s Imps going into injury time.
But Matt Rhead, who had been on the Sincil Bank pitch for just seven minutes, had other ideas when he rose highest in a crowd of players to power home Louis Briscoe’s cross.
Mansfield had been close to being dead and buried when Tom Millar hit the bar from Dan Gray’s long throw as Lincoln lead 3-2.
And, with the last touch of the game, Stags faced FA Cup heartbreak before Briscoe cleared a Vadaine Oliver header off the line with the last touch of the game, in what was a perfect advert for non-leauge football.
The last ditch equaliaser was a fair reward for Stags who had shown good belief and charachter to battle their way back into the entertaining contest when all hope seemed lost
It had all started so well for the visitors, who took the lead through Matt Green on 21 minutes after he took full advantage of a woefully short Andrew Boyce backpass.
But two goals either side of half-time changed the complexion of the game, with Power levellling through a sweetly struck free-kick on 45 minutes, before Taylor put the home side into the lead just three minutes after the break.
Louis Briscoe, who had been anonymous up to this point, then thundered home a half-volley from 25 yards into the roof of the net as he signalled his entrance into the game.
Lincoln thought they had found the winner when they broke superbly on the counter attack from their defensive third to sweep towards Redmond’s goal.
Taylor then saw his powerful effort across goal parried into the path of the impressive Alan Power who slotted home into the unguarded net.
But Stags, who threw on Jake Speight and Matt Rhead in the closing stages as he looked for a route back into the game, refused to lay down and die and got their just rewards with Rhead’s bullet header.
The replay will take place at One Call Stadium on Tuesday 11th December.
Stags boss Paul Cox made wholesale changes to his starting line-up, with eight new faces coming in from the side which embarrassingly lost 2-1 to lowly Matlock on Tuesday night.
Goalkeeper Shane Redmond kept his place in goal after Alan Marriott was deemed to be not fully fit after beginning his injury comeback in the reserves this week.
Former Stags players Gary Mills and Adam Smith were named in David Holdsworth’s starting 11, with former favourite Colin Larkin named on The Imps’ bench.
Lincoln boss David Holdsworth collected his manager of the month award for November ahead of the kick-off, with Stags fans hoping the manager of the month ‘curse’ would strike.
After a blood and thunder opening, in which both teams battled for midfiield supremecy, Mansfield registered the first corner of the contest on 10 mins.
But Chris Clements’ corner came to nothing as it drifted safely into the hands of Lincoln shot-stopper Paul Farman.
The home side then began to grow into the game and push the visitors back into their own half.
Former player Adam Smith should have done better on 15 mins when he fluffed his shot, despite having time and space from eight yards out as Mansfield failed to clear their lines.
Right-back John Thompson was fortunate to just receive a yellow card after hacking down Smith from behind on 18 minutes.
A minute later Matt Green came close to nodding Stags in front as he glanced an inswinging Lee Beevers cross a yard wide.
But the goal-getter didn’t have to wait long to celebrate finding the back of the net after he collected a woefully short backpass from Andrew Boyce.
Green then showed his customary composure to put the ball past the right side of Farman, before passing the goalkeeper on his left and slotting home into an empty net to give Mansfield a 21st minute lead.
The dangerous Green should have put the visitors two up on 28 minutes when a sweet pass from Meikle found Green with space after he beat the last man down the left channel.
Farman then made a disasterous attempt to beat Green to the ball, allowing the hot-shot striker to ghost past the stranded goalkeeper.
But, with the goal gapping, Green dragged his effort inches past the post from a tightish angle to leave Farman and Lincoln breathing a huge sigh of relief.
Stags continued to look more than comfortable at the other end, with goalkeeper Shane Redmond having very little to do.
But, right on the stroke of half-time, Alan Power found an undeserved equaliser for The Imps.
Adam Murray gave away a free-kick around 25 yards out after fouling Jamie Taylor. Power then stepped to sweetly curl home past the diving Redmond into the bottom right corner.
It was a bitter blow for Stags, who had looked in control up until that point against a seemingly toothless Lincoln side.
And it got even worse for Stags just three minutes after the break when a Dan Gray long throw was headed goalwards by Taylor inside the six yard box.
Taylor’s first header was well saved by Redmond, who was heading in the other direction, but he could do nothing to prevent a prone Taylor getting up off his knees to tap the rebound home from one yard.
But Mansfield found the perfect response five minutes later when Louis Briscoe cracked home a thunderous half-volley into the roof of the net from 25 yards after Lincoln only half cleared a Chris Clements free-kick.
Alan Power again showed his threat just after the hour mark as he found space to run at the Mansfield back four.
But Stags stood firm with Geohaghon and Dempster crowding him out before clearing the danger.
A minute later defender Tom Miller just failed to get on the end of a inswinging free-kick by Power at the back post as David Holdsworth’s went in search of a third.
But The Imps found that potentially decisive third goal just a minute later when Taylor burst forward superbly on the counter attack from inside his own half.
Despite the best efforts of Lindon Meikle to track back, Taylor unleashed a fierce effort across goal which was parried by Redmond.
The unmarked Power then showed his cleverness as well as skill to be in the perfect position to fire home the rebound high into the unguarded net after 66 mins to the delight of the home faithful.
It was the latest incident throughout the second half that the increasingly dominant Lincoln had found joy down the Mansfield flanks.
Boss Paul Cox threw on Jake Speight on 72 minutes as he looked to breath some much needed pace and firepower into his faltering attack.
Louis Briscoe earned a corner for the visitors on 75 minutes after his goalbound shot was blocked.
Tom Miller then hit the bar from Dan Gray’s pass in the 83 minute with a spectacular overhead kick as Lincoln came close to wrapping their third round passage up.
But two minutes into stoppage time Mansfield Town found the most unlikely of equalisers when subsistute Matt Rhead rose majestically to power home past the despairing Farman and earn Stags another bite of the cherry.
John Thompson then saved Stags with the last action of the game when he headed a Vadaine Oliver header off the line to earn a replay.
LINCOLN CITY : Farman, Gray, Boyce, Miller, Gilbert, Mills, Fofana, Smith (Oliver 87 mins), Sheridan, Power, Taylor. Subs not used: Robson, Oliver, Nicolau, Bassele, Larkin, Morgan, Turner.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Redmond, Thompson, Dempster, Geohaghon, Beevers, Clements, Murray, Briscoe, Meikle (Rhead 85 mins), Green, Hutchinson (Speight 72 mins). Subs not used: Sutton, Jones, Wright, Howell, Stevenson:
Referee: Mark Haywood.
ATTENDANCE: 4,127 (1176 away).
STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Louis Briscoe.