A Ryan Bartlett mark on the goal-line ensured Mansfield pulled off its best win for the season.
Ace Benalla forward Nick Warnock’s shot on goal looked good with only seconds remaining.
It would have put the Saints three points in front after the Eagles kicked two goals in six minutes to take back the lead.
But Warnock’s attempt fell just short and Bartlett grabbed it, ensuring the Eagles recorded a three-point victory at Benalla Showgrounds.
A free kick to midfielder Tom German was quickly taken advantage of by Ben Fagan, who put Mansfield back in front with his third goal of the day with about 90 seconds remaining.
The Saints grabbed the centre clearance, with Warnock marking to giving his side an opportunity to pinch the result.
‘‘We made it hard for ourselves, but it was pleasing to come away with a win like that,’’ Eagles coach Cameron Hotton said.
‘‘It was a nail-biter, but it was good to win one of those close games and beat a side above us for the first time this season.’’
Jacob Howes was sent off in the third quarter, with the Eagles player spending more time off the ground than he should have due to some confusion in the timekeeper box.
‘‘We were one down from the 11-minute mark of the third quarter until early in the last quarter, so that made it tough, especially kicking into the wind,’’ Hotton said.
Backmen Adam Boshevski and Luke Walsh both struggled with hamstring tightness, spending long periods on the bench.
That meant Earl Ree-Goodings had to stand up and he was able to restrict star Benalla forward Jarrod Bannister to three goals.
Jamie Sheahan had one of his best games for the season, kicking two goals in an outstanding display.
Ruckman Matt Martin impressed in his senior debut, taking it up to Benalla’s James Marchbank.
Injured Saints coach Luke Morgan said his side had to turn its form around quickly ahead of the club’s fifth straight finals appearance.
‘‘They (Mansfield) played well and our first half was ordinary, but we started to produce the effort required at GVL level a bit later on,’’ Morgan said.
‘‘We’ve got to take the positives now and recognise we are going to play finals, we’ll probably finish in sixth position, but we have to get better.’’
Tom Bennett continued his strong form for the Saints, while Warnock provided a target up forward and played his best game in recent times.
Charlie Morrison had another superb outing, while Morgan was impressed with Michael Ryan’s progression as a senior player.