Mansfield take a slender 2-1 lead into the second leg of the League Two play-off semi-finals after a superb battle with Northampton at the One Call Stadium.
First-half goals from top scorer Rhys Oates and Jordan Bowery saw Mansfield 2-0 up and sitting pretty by the interval, but Ali Koiki’s reply after 61 minutes has left the tie in the balance.
Mansfield carved out the first chance of the game after five minutes as Jamie Murphy found Stephen McLaughlin on the left and his low drilled cross passed inches in front of the outstretched leg of Oates as he slid in.
At the other end, home keeper Nathan Bishop was forced to dive to his right to turn aside a superb 25-yard effort from Louis Appere in the 11th minute.
But the home side grabbed the lead two minutes later. McLaughlin laid the ball off to Bowery who sent a cutting pass to Oates, coming into the right-hand side of the box, and he buried a low shot under the body of keeper Jonny Maxted.
The home side then doubled their lead after 32 minutes through Bowery.
Newcastle loanee Matty Longstaff switched the play to the left with a great ball in front of Jamie Murphy. He got to the byline and drilled the ball hard across goal and Bowery was there to bury a finish at the far post.
Three minutes later Oates tried to go it alone on the left but his low shot from distance was wide as Stags went in at half-time in control.
Oates almost made it 3-0 just three minutes into the second half as he turned his man neatly with a great first touch from James Perch’s pass and forced Maxted to make a great save from his powerful finish.
Sam Hoskins was not far away from pulling one back in the 53rd minute as he tried to curl a 25-yard finish across Bishop from the left but saw his shot go just wide of the far post.
However, Northampton were back in the tie just after the hour mark.
Breaking quickly down the centre, Mitch Pinnock passed to Appere who found Koiki on the edge of the box, and he tucked away a low finish which took a deflection on its way past Bishop.
Northampton continued to press and John-Joe O’Toole made a great block to deny Hoskins with Josh Eppiah’s close-range follow-up deflecting inches over for a corner from which Fraser Horsfall headed wide.
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