Kidderminster Harriers 1 Mansfield 3
There were more sub-plots to ponder than an entire series of Morse whodunits but in the end they all turned out to be red herrings.
The script was in place for Kidderminster manager Stuart Watkiss to punish the club which axed him after he led them to promotion; or for Harriers strikers Iyseden Christie or Chris Beardsley to shoot down their old teammates; or for Mansfield's Simon Brown to prove a point to the club he played for in two separate loan spells.
But the twist came in the most unexpected way. The underdogs claimed the points and this time Mansfield, who had not won in six matches, ended Kidderminster's sixmatch unbeaten run to burst the balloon of optimism around relegation-battling Aggborough.
The deadly assassin could have been the referee who amazingly decided to show Mansfield goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington a yellow card when red seemed the natural decision after he flattened Beardsley. "Even Pilks admitted he should have been sent off," said Watkiss. Or again Dean Keates - the hero at Notts County and Darlington - might have been the villain when he fired wide from the subsequent penalty and squandered the chance to put Harriers 2-0 in front.
But, no, the real crimes were committed by Harriers' defence. They have been the indestructible foundation for Harriers' revival but for the second half yesterday it was like the horror-shows of mid-season.
Even Watkiss was left bemused by it all. "We went in at half-time 1-0 up and within five minutes we're 2-1 down and I'm struggling to fathom how a team have defended as well as we have in the last five or six games can defend like we did at times in the second period," he said.
Yet it had looked so rosy at half-time. True, the first 40 minutes made a trip to B&Q seem exciting, but then Tom Bennett intercepted a injudicious pass from Alex John-Baptiste and rolled the ball for Mark Rawle to smash a stunning left-footed piledriver into the top corner.
A minute later, Pilkington sent Beardsley flying with a reckless lunge five yards inside the area but the Stags had a double let-off when Pilkington was only booked and Keates fired the spotkick wide of the right post.
It was to prove a costly miss and, within six minutes of half-time, Mansfield had struck twice.
Wayne Hatswell's wayward pass allowed Brown to flick the ball through to Richie Barker just inside the Harriers half and he sprinted goalwards to finish with a low shot past John Danby.
Then Barker returned the favour two minutes later when Harriers' offside trap failed to ensnare the lively Brown, who rounded Danby and slotted home for his first goal in a Mansfield shirt.
Harriers pounded away without really having the imagination or cunning to unlock the Stags backline in search of an equaliser; instead, it was game over five minutes from time when Barker soared at the far post to nod home Adam Rundle's corner.
Scorers: Rawle (41) 1-0; Barker (49) 1-1; Brown (51) 1-2; Barker (85) 1-3.
KIDDERMINSTER (4-4-2): Danby; Weaver, Jackson, Mullins, Hatswell (Birch, 83); Cozic (Russell, 71), Bennett, Keates, McGrath; Beardsley, Rawle (Christie, 58). Subs: Lewis, Jones.
MANSFIELD (4-5-1): Pilkington; Neil (Day, 45), Baptiste, Buxton, McNiven; Brown, McLachlan, Coke, Lloyd (Barrowman, 45), Rundle; Barker. Subs: White, McIntosh, Herron.
Referee: Lee Probert (Bristol). Bookings: Kidderminster - Beardsley ( persistent fouling); Mansfield - Pilkington (foul), Barrowman (dissent).
Harriers man of the match: Mark Jackson - commanding figure.