The Mariners turned in a heroic performance to come away from high-flying Exeter City with all three points, despite being reduced to ten men early in the second half and starting the game with a threadbare squad.
Martyn Woolford gave the visitors the lead on 15 minutes with a well-taken volley, before defender Alex Whitmore was dismissed on 51 minutes for a late challenge on Jake Taylor.
Exeter rallied and eventually equalised through highly-rated frontman Jayden Stockley with 12 minutes remaining, but the Mariners went straight back up the other end and secured all three points thanks to substitute Mitch Rose’s penalty.
Injuries to central defenders Danny Collins, Akin Famewo and Harry Davis meant that Michael Jolley’s side were forced into a patched-up centre-half pairing of Whitmore and right-back Reece Hall-Johnson.
So it came as no surprise to see the hosts settle first. A corner from the right caused havoc in the Town box with Pierce Sweeney seeing a header turned away, before Jake Taylor and Stockley had efforts blocked on the rebound.
But it was the Mariners who took the lead on 15 minutes thanks to an excellent goal from Woolford. Jake Hessenthaler’s cross from the right was only half-cleared and the former Scunthorpe midfielder was on hand to fire home a volley from the left side of the area.
The Grecians responded well and had a goal disallowed midway through the half when Chiedozie Ogbene headed in from almost on the goal-line.
James McKeown pulled off the first in a series of fine saves just before the break, stretching to keep out Tristan Abrahams’ header.
There was a massive blow for the Mariners just six minutes after the interval, when Whitmore was dismissed for a late challenge on Taylor.
Jolley shuffled his pack by throwing 17-year-old Mattie Pollock on for his senior debut.
City took control and McKeown was at his best to smother Stockley’s effort from close range.
But there was nothing the Mariners’ stopper could do to prevent the Grecians’ equaliser on 78 minutes; Stockley flashing a header beyond the ‘keeper from inside the area.
Exeter fans sensed a winner but, astonishingly, it was the Mariners who immediately retook the lead from the kick-off.
A long ball forward from Andrew Fox caused problems for Dara O’Shea in the home defence and he only succeeded in dragging down another Town substitute, Ahkeem Rose, for a penalty.
Jolley brought regular penalty taker Mitch Rose on for the kick and he duly obliged from 12 yards with his first action of the game.
The Grecaians frantically pushed forward in the hope of a second equaliser. Sweeney and O’Shea had efforts saved by McKeown, before the Mariners’ goalkeeper did superbly to turn away Taylor’s stinging drive.
Stockley then hit the bar with a header as the game moved into its final stages. McKeown then saved his best for last, pulling off a stunning fingertip save to keep out Dean Moxey’s injury time effort.
Grecians: Pym; Sweeney, O’Shea, Hartridge (L Martin), Moxey; Tillson (Law), Taylor, Collins; Abrahams (Forte), Stockley, Ogbene. Subs not used: Hamon, Woodman, A Martin, Oates, Holmes.
Mariners: McKeown; Hendrie, Hall-Johnson, Whitmore, Fox; Embleton, Hessenthaler (M Rose), Clifton, Woolford (Pollock); Cardwell, Thomas (A Rose). Subs not used: Russell, Welsh, Buckley, Pringle