If ever the old cliché of “it's a game of two halves” had a right to rear it's head, today was most definitely it.
In the first period, the home side were by far the superior, dominating proceedings and well deserving of their two-goal advantage. Danny Reet scored two, had a further one disallowed and saw strike partner Ritchie Barker hit a post.
In the second period it was Notts who dominated, particularly so after the sending off of Mansfield's Matt Hamshaw. The visitors constantly took the game to the Stags, and after squandering several openings, got back into th ematch with late goals from Mike Edwards and Lawrie Dudfield.
Notts boss Steve Thompson was forced into two changes and made a third out of choice, for today's local derby. He drafted Mike Edwards back into defence, meaning Ian Ross came into the midfield and Stephen Hunt dropped out. Dan Gleeson picked up a late illness, and Jason Lee was suspended, so Gary Silk and Dudfield replaced them respectively.
The players ran out at Field Mill to a fantastic atmosphere. The travelling contingent were in fine voice, and the banter between them and a small section of youths in the Mansfield section made for entertaining viewing.
The first half was far from entertaining viewing though for the away support however. from the very first moment, Peter Shirtliff's Mansfield took the game to the Magpies.
Having said that, despite several crosses into the Notts box, the first attempt on goal didn't come until the tenth minute, and it ended up in the back of Kevin Pilkington's net.
Gareth Jelleyman crossed from the left hand side, and Barker rose above Austin McCann at the far post to nod into the path of an unmarked Reet. He made no mistake by smashing the ball into the roof of the net.
Barker was involved in the next attack too. The former Rotherham striker had scored in all of his previous Mansfield-Notts clashes, and nearly did so again today. Hamshaw went on a weaving run before slipping a ball in behind a flat Notts defence. Barker raced onto the ball but could only stab it onto Pilkington's post. A real let off for the visitors, but it wasn't long before Mansfield deservedly doubled their lead.
That man Barker was again at the centre of it, chasing his first goal in six, as a corner was met by his header that crashed against the bar. Notts failed to clear it and Reet bundled the ball over the line for his second goal of the game. He celebrated in front of an exasperated Notts contingent, clearly smug with putting Mansfield 2-0 up inside twenty minutes.
Notts had yet to even start, a lack of width a major downfall as David Pipe and Andy Parkinson failed to get into the game. Notts were far too narrow, allowing Jelleyman and Hamshaw to dominate, with acres of space on either flank.
The second Stags goal did push Notts on a little bit, and Ross went close with a free-kick that narrowly missed the bar, and Dudfield turned and hit a firm effort from outside of the area, but again that missed the target.
At the other end, Mansfield continued to push, and on his second return to the club he gave five years of service, Pilkington was looking shaky. Indeed, every time Mansfield pushed forward, he was hesitant, and Barker and Reet were causing all sorts of problems.
Pilkington did manage to deny Reet a third from just inside the box, Reet rather tamely striking the ball, before Mendes had an effort easily grasped by Jason White. Parkinson had done well down the left hand side, releasing Mendes, also on his old stomping ground, but the striker lacked a cutting edge when well positioned.
A cutting edge wasn't the only thing lacking in Notts' ranks. Distribution of the ball was particularly poor, and Matt Somner and Ross were being well over run in midfield.
Mansfield and that man Reet had the ball in the net again shortly before half-time. A long ball forward found the former Sheffield Wednesday youngster, who was adjudged to have fouled Alan White en route to turning and striking effortlessly past Pilkington.
That was the last meaningful action of the first period, and Steve Thompson must have said some harsh words to his Notts players at half-time, as he got a great response in the second half. Certainly his half-time substitutions were instrumental in the turnaround. He replaced the ineffective Mendes with Tcham N'Toya and Hunt was brought in for Somner, with Mike Edwards moving into the midfield in the hope of getting Notts a foothold in hat particularly pivotal area of the match.
In an off-the-ball incident, Hamshaw fouled McCann, and Premiership referee Dermot Gallagher issued a yellow card. Hamshaw had already been booked, and after McCann pointed this out to Gallagher he replaced the yellow with a red, and Notts had been given a considerable advantage. They made Hamshaw pay for his moment of stupidity in great style.
Thompson rallied his troops, and Ross began to play make in the manner he should have from the started. Realising McCann had so much space, time and again the Sheffield United loanee released him, and time and time again McCann caused danger.
McCann released Parkinson on several occasions, with Parkinson turning in his best 45 minutes of a campaign in which he has largely disappointed. He ran at Alex John-Baptiste and Jake Buxton, forcing several corners. On the opposing flank Pipe was doing the same, his sheer industry and graft causing Jelleyman to back track to help his full-back Alan Sheehan.
From one of several corners, Hunt could only volley high, before White headed over.
N'Toya then took an age to produce a finishing effort, well blocked by Buxton, before Pipe had a similar effort cleared.
N'Toya's pace and directness was providing another dimension to the Notts attack, and he released Dudfield for an effort that White grabbed, before McCann shot wide.
Then came the goal, at a perfect time. N'Toya swung a ball across from the right and Edwards stabbed the ball across the line from close range. Edwards, who scored in last seasons thrilling 3-2 win for Notts here, grabbed the ball from the net. Notts had twenty minutes to forge an equaliser.
Several corners were wasted as McCann, Ross and substitute Dan Martin failed to deliver, before Ross had a drive deflected from White's well guarded goal.
The pressure was intense, and Notts got what they deserved, an equaliser with five minutes to go.
Ross curled in a corner, which Hunt nodded back across goal and Dudfield headed home. Mass celebrations ensued, and Dudfield was booked for his part in them. He jumped in front of the crowd, and the supporters clambered all over him, marvelling at the resilience once again showed by the magpies.
Stags substitute Giles Coke then nearly got Mansfield back into the lead, completely against the run of play, when he lashed a half-volley narrowly wide.
At a time where spirit is needed most, a local derby encounter, Notts produced the goods in a thrilling second-half display. Much will be made of the poor first half but four points from two away games will delight Thompson and his players.
The supporters certainly went home with their heads held high. As did that man Dudfield.