Mansfield Town boss Paul Cox hailed three "priceless" points after seeing his side take another massive step towards Football League safety with a 2-1 victory over Newport County thanks to Anthony Howell's last-gasp winner.

County goalkeeper Elliot Parish allowed a Ryan Tafazolli header through his grasp to gift Stags a 28th-minute lead, only for home stopper Alan Marriott to spill the ball at the feet of Rene Howe to bag a 50th-minute equaliser.

But Howell proved to be the hero to push Mansfield eight points clear of the drop zone.

Boss Cox beamed: "Those points were priceless as I don't think we played very well in the second half.

"But I am not bothered about performances now, just the results.

"We just have to forget about what is going on around us and concentrate on ourselves.

"I was pleased with our endeavour and our work-ethic. But the quality wasn't there and both teams struggled to put two passes together.

"But the boys have got a bit of character. These are the games you just have to grind it out.

"Their 'keeper will feel he should have done better with our first goal. But we have got to be greedy, bite, scratch and take anything we can get to make sure we are in this league next season. That's how we have got to be. That's our goal and the sooner we nail that the better.

"It is a tough league and I hope we can come back after the summer a bit wiser and a bit cuter, and I am sure this learning curve will prove beneficial for us.

"The supporters make a massive difference when they get behind you, especially in the second half. It gives players impetus and confidence."

On a difficult surface, there were few real chances at either end with both sides, old Conference rivals, taking lumps out of each other with some tough tackling that saw seven yellow cards shown.

Tafazolli drew first blood after 28 minutes as his six-yard header from a long Ben Hutchinson free-kick seemed to have been saved, only for Parish to allow it to creep out his grasp and over the line for the defender's first goal for his club.

Marriott felt he was fouled as he came for a long Tom Naylor free-kick after 50 minutes but he could not hold the ball and presented Howe with an easy finish from eight yards for the equaliser.

But Howell was in the right place at the right time late on to stoop bravely and net from close range after Matt Rhead had headed the ball across goal from the left.

That made it one win in 12 for Justin Edinburgh's Exiles.

He said: "That is very difficult to take. We should have dealt with it better.

"We dominated that second half. But we have got to make sure when you don't win it, you don't lose it.

"We have now got to show a quick response.

"When we had a spell after the goal we should have been more clinical.

"We bossed it and restricted them to very little on their home pitch. But we then paid the price for not dealing with a second phase ball.

"We are lacking that bit of belief. They were there for the taking but we didn't capitalise on that.

"It's been out story since Christmas and only ourselves can turn it around.

"We have lost momentum - it's as simple as that and we have to deal with it. We know there are reasons. You can't just turn it on and off when you feel like it.

"We need to start showing a bit of consistency as we can't keep relying on teams below us. We need to stand up and be counted as a group.

"Thankfully the games are coming thick and fast so we can't dwell on this result too long."