Ricky Miller marked his return to the starting line-up with a brace that lifted Vale to victory over promotion-chasing Mansfield Town, and Scott Brown's penalty save in the first half also proved to be a key moment as the hosts came out 2-1 winners at Vale Park.
Vale took just seven seconds to register their first attempt on goal as David Worrall carried the ball forward straight from kick-off, but his distant effort flew just wide. Tom Conlon saw an effort blocked inside the first minute as well as the hosts looked to put their stamp on proceedings early on.
The Valiants continued to play with real intensity following that move, and they almost profited on a lapse in concentration by the Mansfield defence on 10 minutes, only for Jordan Smith to keep Worrall’s chip out with his fingertips.
Against the run of play, Mansfield broke away and won themselves a penalty as Leon Legge brought down Nicky Ajose inside the area after 18 minutes. The striker then stepped up to take the spot kick himself, but Scott Brown came to the rescue with a superb save to ensure the game remained level.
Midway through the first half, Vale had another chance to pull themselves ahead after the ball fell to Worrall in a dangerous position, but his curled strike dropped just wide of the far post with Smith scrambling. Conlon then tried his luck from 30 yards after stealing possession in the 27thminute, but his shot rose over the bar.
Mansfield did look more threatening in the latter stages of the first half and they won a succession of corners five minutes before the break, but Vale’s rear guard stood firm to soak up the pressure and keep the visitors at bay.
Following the restart, both teams looked to attack and find a breakthrough, but it was Vale who got it after 50 minutes as Miller raced onto a through ball to round the goalkeeper and score. It then got better for John Askey’s men just two minutes later as Miller doubled his tally, getting on the end of a Luke Hannant cross to slide a finish home.
That quick-fire double sparked euphoric scenes amongst the home supporters, and they were almost left celebrating a third goal just before the hour mark as Hannant closed in on goal, but his effort drifted narrowly wide from a tight angle.
It was the travelling contingent who were cheering on 61 minutes as their side reduced the deficit to just one goal. Substitute Otis Khan provided the assist with a pinpoint cross from the right, and it was Nicky Ajose who got the finishing touch with a header that nestled into the top corner.
The action didn’t stop there, and Miller was presented with a golden opportunity to complete his hat-trick on 68 minutes as he intercepted a loose pass before bearing down on goal, but he saw two efforts saved. Conlon then rocketed the rebound towards goal, but Krystian Pearce managed to block it on the line.
As the away side probed for a leveller late on, the Valiants were forced to defend as a unit, but they showed great determination and resillience to clear several balls into the box. There were a few nervy moments in there for the home supporters, but the full-time whistle was sounded and a chorus of cheers echoed around Vale Park.
Port Vale: Scott Brown, Adam Crookes, Nathan Smith, Leon Legge ©, Mitch Clark, Luke Joyce, Tom Conlon, Manny Oyeleke (Antony Kay 82’), Luke Hannant (Cristian Montano 87'), David Worrall, Ricky Miller (Ben Whitfield 81’).
Unused Substitutes: Sam Hornby, James Gibbons, Mark Harris, Kyle Howkins.
Mansfield Town: Jordan Smith, Mal Benning, Krystian Pearce, Neal Bishop, Jacob Mellis (Alex MacDonald 66’), Will Atkinson, Willem Tomlinson (Otis Khan 56’), Ryan Sweeney (Ben Turner 51’), Nicky Ajose, CJ Hamilton, Jorge Grant.
Unused Substitutes: Conrad Logan, Gethin Jones, Alistair Smith, Zayn Hakeem.
Attendance: 5,231 (1,430 away).