Rookie Mansfield boss John Dempster hailed the impact of substitute Andy Cook after his second-half brace rescued a point for the Stags from a 2-2 draw at promotion-chasing Forest Green.
The burly striker was introduced at the start of the second period with his side trailing to a sumptuous 30th-minute Aaron Collins opener for Rovers, his third in four games, to hand Rovers the lead at the break in a fractious first half which featured four bookings.
Mark Cooper’s side looked to have put the game to bed in the 61st minute when midfielder Ebou Adams burst forward and slipped in Celtic loanee Jack Aitchison, who picked his spot with a sweet finish to beat the sprawling Conrad Logan all ends up.
But Rovers’ lead lasted barely a minute as substitute Cook planted a free header beyond Lewis Thomas from an Otis Khan delivery.
And Rovers pressed the self-destruct button. Cook was on the spot again as his 74th-minute strike squirmed through the gloves of Thomas to level the match.
Cook went close to a stunning second-half hat-trick, but Thomas did enough to get a glove onto his strike to deny the former Walsall forward.
Dempster, 36, the youngest manager in the Football League, said: “After an hour we were disappointed, the quality was seriously lacking, and the players have held their hands up.
“They showed fantastic character and it’s a good win on the road and a real smash and grab.
“The first goal took a bit of a deflection, but our keeper kept us in it, we can do better, but it’s a good point and Cookie showed his quality with his double and really made a difference against one of the best teams we’ve faced this season.”
Cooper gleaned the positives despite relinquishing a two-goal cushion.
“That was the best performance of the season,” said Cooper.
“We’re 2-0 up into the second half and that’s the most one-sided game I’ve seen in a long time, sometimes you get the performance, but not the result you deserve.
“We had 21 shots and seven or eight on target. Our performance was spot on – we have to win the game.”
Cooper bemoaned two errors that allowed Mansfield to claw their way back into the game.
He added: “Individually you make sure you mark your man when the ball is in the box and keep the ball out of the net when it’s a daisy-cutter and see the game out.
“Once we scored the second goal, we let them score straight away, just a lack of professionalism, but we should have enough nous on the pitch to make sure we go on and score a third or fourth.”