Cobblers supporters left Mansfield singing Marc Richards’ name having arrived singing John-Joe O’Toole’s on a good day for the former and a terrible one for the latter.
O’Toole was the talking point for all the wrong reasons in a game named in his honour by the Cobblers’ supporters.
The midfielder, whose name was sang before the match by fans who wore wigs and headbands in a tribute to his recent improvement in form, was sent off for violent conduct after half an hour of a 1-1 draw.
Instead it was Richards who emerged as the Northampton Town hero, the number nine calming dispatching an injury-time penalty to procure a point from a poor but drama-packed game.
Although it was a satisfying outcome on the balance of play, it does leave Town eight points adrift of the Sky Bet League Two top seven.
Matt Duke was forced into action in the eighth minute of the game when Simon Heslop fired across him, having collected the ball from a Vadaine Oliver back heel on the right wing.
Ricky Holmes had Town’s first opportunities a goal, drawing a good save from Lenny Pidgeley with a left-footed shot and then firing the follow-up into the side netting.
Midfielder Simon Heslop, who played under Chris Wilder at Oxford, rattled Duke’s bar with a free-kick on the half-hour mark after Joel Byrom had tripped Jack Thomas 25 yards from goal and Oliver drove wide of the target after a goal kick found its way through to him.
The game unravelled in the 36th minute. O’Toole, already on a booking and having exhibited signs of frustration at the way the game was going, hit out at Ritchie Sutton as the pair waited on the goal line for a corner kick to be delivered.
Referee Lee Collins spotted it and wasted no time in showing the midfielder the red card.
Town were perhaps a little fortunate in the aftermath, in which their own Lee Collins appeared to lay hands on Pidgeley, an incident missed by all of the match officials.
Mansfield should have been ahead in the first half but needed just three of the second to take the lead, Oliver left with a simple finish at the back post after Lee Beevers’ free-kick had gone all the way through the crowd of players in the box.
Jason Taylor hit the bar with a header from a corner as the visitors mounted a positive response to the setback but they never really threatened after that.
Their best piece of play was a training-ground routine free-kick which saw Byrom get in around the back and cross, but Cresswell and Richards got in the way of each other and the chance was lost.
The Cobblers threw the kitchen sink at Mansfield in the final 10 minutes, replacing centre-back Collins with centre-forward Ivan Toney and going to a 3-3-3 formation.
Richards drew a good save from Pidgeley with a late free-kick but made no mistake with the penalty, won after Toney had nutmegged - and been fouled by - Brown.
Mansfield: Pidgeley, Sutton, Riley, Tafazoli, Beevers, Lambe, Ravenhill, Thomas, Heslop, Brown, Oliver
Subs: Bingham (for Thomas 74), Murray (for Lambe 86)
Not used: Studer, Rhead, McGuire, Marsden, Kee
Cobblers: Duke, Moloney, Cresswell, Collins, Horwood, D’Ath, Taylor, Byrom, Holmes, O’Toole, Richards
Subs: Toney (for Collins 82), Bodin (for Taylor 90), Newey (for Holmes)
Not used: Carter, Snedker, Tozer, Hackett
Away fans: 1,210