Mansfield 2 Walsall 1 - Report
Jordan Bowery's 71st minute strike condemned Walsall to a 2-1 defeat against unbeaten Mansfield Town at Field Mill.
Aden Flint scrambled the ball over the line from a corner to give the hosts the lead inside 15 minutes.
Ryan Stirk responded after the break with an equaliser against his former club, before Bowery produced the decisive strike 19 minutes from time.
Mat Sadler was forced into two changes with Harry Williams and top scorer Freddie Draper missing out due to injury.
Danny Johnson was handed his first start since the trip to Sutton United and led the line as a sole striker against his former employers.
David Okagbue also returned from an ankle injury to partner Donervon Daniels in the heart of defence.
Walsall did start quite positively with Liam Gordon roaring forward on a mesmerising solo run, which was eventually halted by Ollie Clarke's challenge inside the box.
However, Mansfield dominated possession and soon took control, especially once they got off the mark after 15 minutes.
The Saddlers failed to deal with a corner, which was delivered into the danger area by George Maris. Owen Evans took two bites of the cherry to claw Lucas Akins' header at the back post away, before the Welshman sprung into another save to deny Davis Keillor-Dunn.
Flint was first to the loose ball inside the six-yard box and scrambled the ball over the line to provide the hosts with the lead.
Walsall needed to regroup and weather the storm after falling behind, and they did keep the score down to just one at the break.
Okagbue blocked Maris' low drive behind and Evans was at full stretch to keep out Keillor-Dunn. Joe Riley was caught on the ball by Clarke and he fed Keillor-Dunn down the inside left channel.
The Mansfield forward surged inside and Evans sprung to his left to produce an impressive stop to thwart him.
Johnson combined with Ross Tierney on the cusp of half-time but the ball just wouldn't land for him at the end of an auspicious counter-attack.
He then spun away from his marker on the edge of the box before blazing wide of the target, as Christy Pym's goal remained untroubled for the opening 45 minutes.
Mansfield started the second period on the front foot with Keillor-Dunn racing into the penalty area with a mazy run. He teed up Aaron Lewis for a golden chance, which the midfielder squandered by firing his effort over.
But Walsall found an equaliser against the run of play with Stirk finding the net for his second goal of the season.
Knowles was released down the right and his low cross was missed by Johnson at the near post. But Stirk was present to collect the cross and send a composed finish beyond the reach of Pym.
Walsall enjoyed their best period of the game after finding the leveller. Hutchinson dragged a low effort wide, whilst Stirk sent a rising strike over the bar from distance.
However, Mansfield soon snapped back, and fired a warning sign, before eventually finding the net through ex-Villa player Bowery.
Bowery had flashed a dangerous ball across the face of goal which just alluded James Gale on the stretch. But Bowery would be celebrating just moments later.
Substitute Will Swan found himself free to glide down the inside left channel and pick out Bowery inside the box. His effort beat Evans and crashed in off the far post to restore Mansfield's lead.
Sadler introduced Douglas James-Taylor and Jamille Matt for the closing stages but it was Mansfield who had the better chances to add to their advantage.
Clarke took aim from range and sent a low effort whistling just wide, before Keillor-Dunn stung the palms of Evans from range.
Walsall (4-2-3-1): Evans; Riley, Okagbue, Daniels, Gordon; Comley, Stirk (Matt 82); Knowles (Allen 88), Tierney, Hutchinson (James-Taylor 79); Johnson.
Subs not used: Smith, Foulkes, Griffiths.
Mansfield (4-3-1-2): Pym; Bowery, Flint, Brunt (Cargill 46), MacDonald; Lewis, Reed, Clarke (Boateng 80); Maris (Swan 62); Akins (Gale 28), Keillor-Dunn.
Subs not used: Flinders, Williams, Johnson.
Referee: David Rock
Attendance: 7,641 (708)