NERVELESS Lee Fowler sent 23,000 Town fans wild with delight as he clinched glory and promotion with the very last kick of a special season for a revitalised football club.
On the biggest stage and in his home city, Fowler followed Rob Edwards, Danny Schofield and Tony Carss to the penalty spot knowing one more sure shot would make Jacko's second coming complete.
He never wavered as a rip-roaring play-off final and nerve-jangling shoot-out reached a thrilling 4-1 climax - and the scenes of delirium which followed could be explained in every emotional chapter of 53 matches and 120 goalless minutes which had gone before.
This was Peter Jackson's finest hour and the culmination of 11 months of hard graft for a developing team who - with the exception of some gut-wrenching late failures - looked every inch a promotion-winning outfit from December to this day.
Four defeats (one of them to Mansfield) in the final 28 matches is a proud record for Jackson, his talented No2 Terry Yorath and the squad to build on in the highly-attractive Second Division next season.
Bring on Bradford, Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday and the rest, because Town are rejuvenated following the rigours of relegation, active after the ashes of administration and boasting a barmy army of born-again fans who took the Millennium Stadium by storm.
It was only to be expected the travelling choir would be taken to hell and back before Town secured their rightful place in Division II, but oh how they enjoyed the lap of honour, with music blaring, fireworks cracking and `Jacko's Jewels' raising the trophy time after time in tribute.
Occasions like this have been too few and far between and architect Jackson - who readily admitted to being a bag of nerves throughout a breathless contest - was rightly honoured with the first medal to be presented and to hoist the silverware with his team.
What a pity the skipper, Efe Sodje, couldn't join him, but Town's magnificent leader was on the way to hospital for a precautionary scan on his injured neck while his teammates danced with delight as the third weekend winners to emerge from the `lucky' north dressing room.
While Crystal Palace and Brighton went through in dull, tension-wrecked games, there was nothing but excitement at every turn of yesterday's closing domestic fixture.
Town easily had the best of the opening hour, passing neatly on a rain-soaked surface and going close with headers from Andy Booth, the creative Danny Schofield and a rasping volley from the recalled Pawel Abbott as Mansfield struggled to get star man Liam Lawrence into the game beyond a speculative long-range shot.
Sodje and Booth tested goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington with further headers in the second half while Schofield was denied a certain goal by the bravery of Tom Curtis, and when Booth chipped wide with only the keeper to beat you sensed it might not be their day.
Mansfield bit back with a crunching drive from Wayne Corden which was brilliantly touched away by Paul Rachubka and, in the final minute, Town hearts sank when sub Colin Larkin had the ball in the net, but only after Laurent D'Jaffo's pull-back had come from beyond the goalline.
Carss hit a scorcher just a foot wide for Town in the first period of extra-time - Rachubka saving one-handed from Corden at the other end - while Pilkington made the best save of the match to keep out Anthony Lloyd's dipping volley in the 106th minute.
Having used all their substitutes, Town finished the match with 10 men following Sodje's eight minutes of treatment and exit on a stretcher, but while they were short on bodies, they certainly weren't short on bottle once Jackson had primed the `huddle'.
Having lost the toss for ends and being forced to take penalties in front of the Stags' fans, substitute Edwards gave them the perfect start by sending Pilkington the wrong way.
Rachubka then made a crushing stop from Corden before Schofield hammered in Town's second, and when Lawrence casually chipped his kick off the top of the bar - burying his head in his hands at only his second miss from 14 penalties this season - Town were already taking the bubbly off ice.
Carss again fired where Pilkington wasn't to put Town 3-0 ahead and, while substitute Neil MacKenzie kept Mansfield briefly in the contest, there was no stopping Fowler - No4 in the best tradition of shoot-out heroes for Town (remember Darren Bullock!).
It was fitting that Jon Stead should be there on the pitch, too, to celebrate a promotion he played a large part in setting up, but this was a triumph for everyone connected with the club considering the traumas of a year ago and something the fans can enjoy all summer.
Next: How they rated >>>
HOW THEY RATED:
Paul Rachubka Made brilliant saves from Corden in normal time, extra-time and the shoot-out. Superb show and leaves as a hero Rating: 9/10
Andy Holdsworth Linked well with Carss and Schofield in the first hour and kept Corden quiet until the closing stages. Great stuff Rating: 8/10
Anthony Lloyd Denied by the best save of the match from Pilkington in the second half of extra-time but gave his all for the team Rating: 8/10
Steve Yates Solid tackles and fine covering work, he was spared the task of taking a penalty in the shoot-out. Excellent Rating: 8/10
Efe Sodje What a pity the skipper wasn't there to lift the Cup through injury, because he was inspirational at the back Rating: 9/10
David Mirfin Strong and confident, he restricted the threat of Mendes and enabled Town to take a strong initial grip on the game Rating: 8/10
Jon Worthington Not one of his better games but worked hard before being replaced six minutes from time by shoot-out hero Fowler Rating: 8/10
Danny Schofield Worked his socks off and Town's most creative player. Denied a goal only by Curtis's brave block. Superb penalty Rating: 9/10
Tony Carss Only a foot away from winning it with a curling drive, he justified his recall and scored his penalty with some ease Rating: 8/10
Andy Booth Close with an early header and should have scored with a chip near the end but ran himself into the ground Rating: 8/10
Pawel Abbott Recalled and delighted to finish as a promotion winner after his agony at Cheltenham. Unlucky not to score with a volley Rating: 8/10
Subs used: Town: Fowler for Worthington 84, McAliskey for Abbott at normal time, Edwards for Lloyd 112. Mansfield: Larkin for Disley 59, D'Jaffo for Mendes 68, MacKenzie for Williamson 97.
Subs not used: Town: Senior, Brown. Mansfield: Coates, Artell.
Penalty scorers: Town: Edwards, Schofield, Carss, Fowler. Mansfield: MacKenzie.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)
Bookings: Town: Sodje. Mansfield: Eaton, Hassell.
Shots on target: Town 7, Mansfield 6.
Corners: Town 6, Mansfield 6.
Caught offside: Town 2, Mansfield 3.
Free-kicks awarded: Town 17, Mansfield 17.