A late winner cost Grimsby Town what would have been a valuable point as they were beaten by Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium.
In a scrappy, stop-start encounter in Kent, the Mariners fell behind 11 minutes after the break when George Lapslie opened the scoring for the hosts.
Town fought back and got themselves level through Gavan Holohan’s equaliser but they were unable to hold on for a share of the spoils as Oli Hawkins’ header three minutes from time settled the contest.
Three changes were made to the Grimsby team following Saturday’s home defeat by Colchester United, with Andy Smith, Anthony Glennon and Holohan coming into the starting XI as Josh Emmanuel, Danny Amos and Alex Hunt moved to the bench.
Goalkeeper Max Crocombe was protected by a back three of Smith, Luke Waterfall and Niall Maher, as Michee Efete and Glennon lined up as wing-backs. Holohan, Harry Clifton and Bryn Morris formed a midfield trio, with John McAtee again linking up with George Lloyd in attack.
Owen Gallacher was involved in the matchday squad for the first time since joining the club after leaving Crawley Town as he was named among the substitutes, alongside Emmanuel, Amos, Hunt, Mikey O’Neill, Tom Dickson-Peters and Danilo Orsi.
In-form Gillingham came into the game looking for a fourth win from their last five fixtures, although they tasted defeat on Saturday with an away loss at Mansfield. They would be aiming to continue the positive upturn which had seen them take 10 points since the start of last month to move off the bottom of the Sky Bet League Two table.
Gills manager Neil Harris would look to January signings Tom Nichols and Hawkins to help keep that resurgence going as they formed the home side’s attack.
Hawkins beat Maher to a ball from David Tutonda to the edge of the box as the hosts launched the first attack of note after a quiet opening to the game, although his header went through to Crocombe.
A long throw led to winger Alex MacDonald volleying over the bar from 20 yards, before Dom Jeffries won the first corner for Gillingham on nine minutes. The delivery from the flag caused no problems though, as it looped over everybody and went out at the far post for a goal kick.
Town’s first good spell of possession came around the 10-minute mark and led to a corner on the left, which was pushed away by keeper Glenn Morris.
Efete set off on a promising run down the right soon afterwards but after reaching the edge of the box, his pass was too strong for Lloyd and the ball rolled out for a goal kick.
Another corner came when a low pull-back from Holohan was cleared by MacDonald but this time, Smith narrowly failed to connect with Glennon’s delivery to the far post.
A long throw from Robbie McKenzie was dealt with at the other end, before Glennon was shown the first yellow card of the evening for a mis-timed sliding challenge on McKenzie.
A push on Efete was spotted by the referee when McKenzie sent another long throw from the right into the Town penalty area, then the next home attack ended when Waterfall was fouled by Hawkins.
Tutonda volleyed wide of the near post after a cross from the home right had been headed to the edge of the box by Waterfall, before a series of throw-ins allowed the hosts to make progress down the right again. McKenzie eventually threw the ball into the six-yard box but after it had bounced around, Holohan hooked clear.
Maher’s first opportunity to use his long throw came just after the half-hour but when the ball was headed back to the centre back, his follow-up cross was caught by Morris.
McAtee fired just wide from 20 yards after Lloyd did well to win the ball back and Holohan helped it on, then a vital sliding clearance by Morris prevented Gillingham from taking the lead after Lapslie had squared towards Jeffries.
Another chance for Town came on 38 minutes when Morris found Glennon with a ball across the box but the former Burnley man could only slice his first-time shot over the bar.
Two added minutes were played at the end of the first half and with no further chances coming for either side in that time, it remained goalless at the break.
No changes were made before the restart and an early Glennon cross was cleared after a run down the left, before a free kick from the away right was also sent into the box by Glennon. Smith met it with a header but the ball was cleared by Tutonda.
McKenzie’s first long throw of the second half was headed away for a corner by Maher and Crocombe had to make a great, instinctive save from it as the flag-kick fell for the unmarked Nichols at the far post and he sent it towards goal. The keeper stood tall to block the attempt.
Holohan survived a handball shout from the home fans as he blocked a ball into the box, then another long throw was cleared by Maher after a deflection off Smith.
The home pressure was building though and it finally told on 56 minutes, when Jeffries beat Efete and squared for LAPSLIE, who had the simple task of slotting the ball into the net from close range.
McAtee saw a shot blocked from a narrow angle as Town looked to immediately respond, before Cheye Alexander replaced Tutonda as Gillingham made the first substitution on the hour.
A 20-yard strike by McAtee was touched wide for a corner by keeper Morris and after the ball from the flag was punched clear, Town retained possession and Clifton won a free kick near the left edge of the penalty area. Morris fizzed it towards the near post but the ball was cleared as far as Clifton, whose return delivery was caught by the keeper.
Clifton sent a left-wing cross through to keeper Morris as the Mariners continued to look for a way back into the contest, then a foul by Smith gave the home side a free kick but it was headed clear by Waterfall.
Lapslie won a throw-in on the right on 69 minutes and McKenzie sent it into the box but Waterfall was there to head the ball away, before Lloyd was fouled as he brought it clear towards the halfway line. MacDonald was booked for the challenge.
A deep cross from Smith was caught by Morris in the home goal, then MacDonald was replaced by Aiden O’Brien and Shaun Williams came on for Lapslie as Gillingham made two further substitutions.
Town’s efforts were rewarded soon afterwards though, as they got themselves back on level terms with 75 minutes on the clock. Glennon looked up from the left and sent a cross to the far post, where HOLOHAN’S header beat keeper Morris and found the net.
Orsi replaced Lloyd straight after the goal in the visitors’ first change, before a foul by Waterfall gave the hosts a free kick in a dangerous position but Williams’ ball from it was helped back to Crocombe by Efete.
Another home free kick was headed away for a corner but again, the defence held firm as Waterfall cleared.
The Gillingham pressure continued when a Nichols volley was blocked for a corner, although the delivery from the flag was poor and Town cleared.
Another Williams corner was dealt with, although the away side were now being pinned back inside their own penalty area and Crocombe made another brilliant save from a close-range Nichols volley.
But the Mariners were unable to hold on for much longer as the home side snatched their lead back with three minutes to go. A cross from Alexander on the right was met by HAWKINS, who steered his header beyond Crocombe and into the far corner of the net.
Dickson-Peters came on for Morris, before Holohan was booked for bringing Timothee Dieng down as the game moved into five added minutes.
Former Mariner Tristan Abrahams replaced Hawkins and Nichols made way for Will Wright as the home side looked to run the clock down.
Waterfall was shown the yellow card for a foul on Dieng and Town were unable to create any further opportunities to grab a second equaliser as they fell to defeat.
The Mariners are back in action on Saturday, when they travel to Northampton Town.