Notts 2-1 Crawley
Ten-man Notts County secured a dramatic last-gasp victory over Crawley Town at Meadow Lane.
In a second half totally dominated by the hosts, the game looked like it would swing the opposite way when Curtis Thompson was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Thierry Audel had other ideas, however, crashing a header off the base of the post and seeing the ball squirm over the line.
Despite their man disadvantage, Kevin Nolan's side looked favourites to see the game out before James Collins restored parity with a tremendous long-range strike.
But Notts refused to give up and retook the lead on the stroke of full-time through an until-then luckless Jonathan Forte.
Nolan was forced to make one change to the team that faced Grimsby Town a week earlier.
The injured Carl Dickinson made way for Haydn Hollis, who filled in at left back as Thierry Audel continued in central defence.
It was an even start to the match with Crawley creating a couple of early openings. Matt Tootle slid in well to halt the progress of pacy winger Enzio Boldewijn shortly before Dean Cox's strike flicked up off Rob Milsom and was easily saved by Adam Collin.
Notts followed up with two deflected efforts of their own, Stead's side-footed volley being nudged wide before Adam Campbell saw his powerful strike diverted over the bar.
Curtis Thompson and Josh Yorwerth wrote themselves into the referee's notebook on the half-hour mark following an off-the-ball tussle, shortly before Josh Payne and Stead saw long-range efforts fly wide at either end.
The game had thus far been devoid of clear cut chances but that changed on 34 minutes when Stead did brilliantly to slip Forte through one on one with Glenn Morris. The forward kept his shot low and the keeper made an excellent save with his feet.
Forte nearly quelled his own disappointment when he met Michael O'Connor's free-kick with an inventive header, looping the ball beyond Morris with his back to goal. Unfortunately for Forte, it dropped on to the roof of the net.
The half ended goalless and, after the sides returned for the second period unchanged, Campbell was fouled on the corner of the box and O'Connor arched the ball across goal and just wide of the far post with the resultant free-kick.
Another O'Connor free-kick caused chaos shortly afterwards, the ball fizzing up off the slick surface before Campbell glanced it goalwards with a stooping header. Had the ball been either side of Morris the keeper would have been stranded but instead it flew fortuitously into his grasp.
Notts kept up their pressure and, after neat build up play between Campbell and Milsom, Forte received the ball in space inside the Crawley area. He unleashed a powerful left-footed shot but Morris made an excellent save to tip the ball over.
There was a double booking for Crawley on 66 minutes, Mark Connolly for cynically blocking off Stead before Lewis Young kicked the ball away in the aftermath.
And that was followed by a triple chance for Notts, Thompson seeing his powerful shot parried, Milsom striking the rebound into the turf and on to the bar and Forte heading over from close range under pressure from Connolly. Forte and Connolly both needed treatment before play resumed.
It was all Notts and Forte came within inches of taking the lead yet again on 71 minutes when his header from a corner was cleared off the line by Reds skipper Jimmy Smith.
And the match took a dramatic turn as Crawley broke away, Thompson tugging back his man and receiving a second yellow card.
Notts didn't let that affect them, however, and they nearly had the lead through Audel after the ball dropped for the Frenchman in the area. A Crawley defender positioned himself well to divert his shot wide.
But Audel wasn't to be denied at the subsequent corner, heading the ball off the post and, eventually, over the line.
Yorwerth looped a header on to the roof of the net as the visitors commenced their pursuit of an equaliser.
And they had one out of the blue when Collins crashed a 25-yard effort off the underside of the bar and over the line.
Alan Smith replaced Stead as Notts resumed their charge for victory, O'Connor seeing a shot deflected wide as the clock ticked down.
But the drama was far from over as, after Hollis' powerful strike from the edge of the area was parried by Morris, Forte was the first man on the scene to claim a deserved goal.
A nervy five minutes' added time followed, during which centre back Joe McNerney headed the ball straight at Collin from six yards.
Forte nearly wrapped things up but saw his effort blocked by his own man Elliott Hewitt, who had earlier come on for a limping O'Connor.
But it wasn't to matter as the Magpies clung on to claim the first victory of the Hardy-Nolan era.