Goals in either half from wingers Tom Bolarinwa and Ashley Chambers saw Grimsby Town win their first game in five, as they beat Accrington Stanley 2-0 at a bitterly cold Blundell Park.
Wide men Bolarinwa and Chambers packed the punch as the Mariners laboured to land the knockout blow against their Lancashire opponents in this Boxing Day clash.
The big news before the game came in the Mariners’ starting line-up with on-loan Manchester United stopper Dean Henderson making his Grimsby debut, in place of long-serving James McKeown, who dropped to the bench.
Top scorer Omar Bogle also returned to the side, having sat out the defeat at Doncaster because of injury.
The hosts started brightly with Bolarinwa getting in down the right and seeing a cross blocked but Stanley soon stamped their authority on the game with Romauld Boco and Jordan Clark both testing Henderson from distance.
Henderson was again called into action on 23 minutes with a fine block at his near post after Boco stole in down the right channel.
Town came closest three minutes later when Danny Andrew clipped a free kick into the box for the run of Bogle, who looped a header just over – although Danny Collins was adjudged offside behind the striker.
At the other end, Billy Kee turned smartly on the edge of the area but got his angles wrong and hammered his effort wide of the near post.
Just after the half hour, the hosts took the lead. Bolarinwa won the ball in midfield with clever chest control and then ran into the space left by an Omar Beckles slip, drawing out Aaron Chapman and finishing low into the bottom right corner for his second of the season.
Town had their tails up now and Brandon Comley tested Chapman with a volley soon after, following good link-up play on the left with Chambers, before Luke Summerfield had a penalty appeal waved away on 39 minutes.
The Mariners’ midfielder was then the first player to go into the book on the stroke of half-time after a late challenge on Stanley’s Mark Hughes.
But there as drama on the half-time whistle as Andrew and the visitors’ Seamus Conneely got into an altercation on the touchline with the Accrington man incensed at a late tackle from the Mariners’ left back.
Conneely rolled down his sock to show something to the referee and, as the players left the field, managers Marcus Bignot and John Coleman had strong words, which sparked a 22-man melee in the tunnel.
Everyone emerged for the second period though and it was the visitors who came out the strongest. A 49th-minute corner went through to the back post, where Kee was on hand, but he fired straight at Henderson and Collins cleared up the remaining danger.
Bogle was then booked for dissent following an offside decision before Kee tested Henderson again from just outside the area.
Bolarinwa relieved the pressure momentarily with a burst down the right side, although his cross was well claimed by Chapman and that allowed the visitors to continue pressing with Clark looping a header straight at Henderson.
The Mariners responded after the hour with a spectacular volley off target from Bogle and then Chapman making a flying save from a Vernon header after a Bolarinwa cross.
Andrew was the next Mariner into the book on 69 minutes after a clumsy challenge on John O’Sullivan deep in Town territory and, shortly after, Bogle was given a final warning by referee Ross Joyce after an angry reaction to a Beckles’ challenge.
Substitute Seamus McCarten was proving more of a threat from midfield and he fired over when well-placed with 20 minutes remaining, before Bogle showed the other side of his game with superb strength, a great turn on the edge of the box and a shot that was deflected away for a corner.
Stanley stepped up a gear as the game moved into the final 15 minutes with O’Sullvan screwing wide after a great burst into the right channel.
Henderson’s best save came a minute later when McCarten used his pace to get beyond the back four but the young England stopper stood up well and saved the effort with his feet.
And the Mariners’ pace in the final third was now proving key as the game became stretched in the final ten minutes. Beckles cut out a Summerfield cross at the near post and then Matty Pearson was booked for obstructing Bolarinwa on the right wing.
Bignot’s first change saw veteran Craig Disley come onto shore up the midfield, replacing QPR loanee Brandon Comley, before Bolarinwa limped out of play to be replaced by Kayden Jackson.
The Mariners’ last two games had been decided in the opposition’s favour by free kicks and the majority of the 5,782 inside Blundell Park held their collective breaths as Clark fired a 25-yard free kick that was deflected over the crossbar.
Coleman threw an extra striker into the mix as Terry Gornell replaced defender Beckles on 86 minutes. And the extra space at the back allowed the hosts to make the game save within 60 seconds.
Disley played a clever ball out to the left for Bogle and he expertly guided a cushioned pass through for the run of Chambers and he advanced to slot through the legs of Chapman for his first goal for the Mariners since his original loan spell at Blundell Park in 2010.
Henderson was called into action twice more as the game moved into stoppage time, finger tipping away another Clark shot at the far post and then smothering from Gornell in the six-yard box.
The win moves the Mariners back up to 12th but Stanley are now only out of the bottom two on goal difference.
Mariners | Henderson; B Davies (Boyce), S Pearson, Collins, Andrew; Bolarinwa (Jackson), Comley (Disley), Summerfield, Chambers; Vernon, Bogle. Subs not used: McKeown, Gowling, Vose, Jones.
Stanley | Chapman; M Pearson, Beckles (Gornell), Vyner, Hughes; Clark, Brown (McCarten), Boco, O’Sullivan, Conneely; Kee. Subs not used: A Davies, McConville, Taylor-Fletcher, Donecien, Little.