Mansfield Town were beaten 4-0 by Championship neighbours Nottingham Forest, despite another encouraging display.
A moment of magic from Jason Cummings gave Forest a slender 1-0 lead at the break.
Forest showed their class in the final stages when Tyler Walker doubled the visitors’ lead on 69 minutes, before Apostolos Vellios scored two late goals following clinical counter attacks.
But Stags can take plenty of heart from a performance which saw them give as good as they got for large parts of the game.
Steve Evans’ side controlled a good chunk of the first half with Rhys Bennett and Danny Rose both having good chances to fire Stags into the lead during that purple patch.
Mansfield again enjoyed plenty of second-half territory and possession, but lacked the guile needed to unlock a well-drilled Forest defence.
And that lack of firepower was cruelly highlighted by a ruthless Forest side, who hit Stags hard on the counter to bag three goals in the final 21 minutes.
Stags had been given a warning of Forest’s counter-attacking skills inside the first minute when Cummings fired wide after Joel Byrom gifted the ball away in midfield.
Rhys Bennett missed a great chance to put Mansfield ahead when he headed Byrom’s perfect free-kick straight into the turf on seven minutes.
Mustapha Carayol blazed high and wide after a surging run on 10 minutes as Forest continued to threaten down the left.
Danny Rose flashed an effort wide when unmarked in the box as Stags began to peg the visitors back.
But the Championship outfit hit the front against the run of play when Cummings rifled a superb strike into the roof of the net on 26 minutes.
Forest should have doubled their lead when Carayol blazed a diving header over from close range four minutes later.
Ben Brereton had a dangerous effort blocked for a corner on 41 minutes as Mansfield were once again carved open down the left.
Zander Diamond had to hack clear with his back to goal in injury time as Forest looked to make the most of a counter-attack on the stroke of half-time.
Stags made eight changes at the break as Steve Evans continued to give his full squad plenty of minutes.
Conrad Logan got down low to superbly tip a Brereton effort just past the post on 51 minutes as Forest started brightest after the break.
Barrie McKay blazed over on 63 minutes after Tyler Walker’s blocked shot fell nicely into his path.
But Walker wrapped the game up six minutes later when he rolled the ball into an empty net following a defensive mix-up between Logan and Hayden White.
Paul Digby fired straight at Dimitar Evtimov on 73 minutes as Mansfield looked for a route back into the game.
And Forest added further icing on the cake with eight minutes to go when Vellios fired into the roof of the net after a great counter-attack.
Vellios bagged his brace with a minute left after Forest once again hit Stags hard on the break.
Mansfield Town: Logan, Bennett, Pearce, Diamond, Hunt, Byrom, Mellis (Thomas 85 mins), Potter, Anderson, Angol, Rose.
Half-time subs on: Benning, Digby, Atkinson, Taft, Spencer, White, Sterling-James, Hamilton.
Half-time off: Pearce, Diamond, Hunt, Byrom, Anderson, Potter, Rose, Angol.
Subs not used: Olejnik, Mirfin.
Nottingham Forest: Smith, Mancienne, Traore, Cohen, Osborn (Edser.80 mins), Carayol, Vaughan, Hobbs, Cummings, Worrall, Brereton.
Subs on (60 mins): Evtimov, Mills McKay, Clough, Ward, Lam, Bouchalakis, Walker, Vellios.
Subs off (60 mins): Smith, Mancienne, Hobbs, Traore, Vaughan, Cohen, Carayol, Brereton, Cummings.
Ref: Mark Heywood.
ATT: (5,333 1449 away).