Matt Chatfield's Bulls started February on a sour note as fellow strugglers Bottesford completed a league double to move within three points of their Nottinghamshire opponents.
Goals from Jacob Fenton and Dayle Hutson created a crucial two-goal cushion, before a Ross Duggan screamer pulled the hosts back into the contest, but the Poachers held firm to claim a big three points at the Forest Town Arena.
Grant Ryan was left with multiple key chances in the game's opening stages, but was unable to find the net in a frustrating first half for AFC.
The first came on 17 minutes, when he prodded wide after stretching to reach a through-ball being carried through by strong winds.
Four minutes later, heads were in hands as Tom Slone squared Jack Harrison's diagonal ball perfectly across goal for Ryan, who struck straight at Bottesford 'keeper Michal Antkowiak from practically a yard out.
A mistake from the visiting stopper then gave the Bulls forward yet another opportunity, as a poor clearance gifted Ryan the ball 18 yards out, but he could only steer wide first-time.
Frustration began to set in, and Ross Duggan was inches away from making a vital connection as a beautifully lofted ball beyond the Bottesford defence was carried just inches too far for the striker to tap past Antkowiak.
Down the other end the visitors still fancied themselves when the opportunity arose, and striker Jacob Fenton saw his attempt from a narrow angle diverted away for a corner.
But from the exact same position and four minutes later, Fenton fired his side ahead on the stroke of half-time, finding Warhurst's bottom corner after AFC failed to clear their lines.
Town continued in the second period as they ended the first, and they edged further ahead when Dayle Hutson's lob over Warhurst crossed the goal line via the woodwork after miscommunication between the Bulls stopper and Tom Slone.
With their tails up, Bottesford surged for a third to kill off the tie, and Henry Cook almost found it in emphatic style from 35 yards, but his attempted lob flew just over the crossbar.
The Bulls were then handed a lifeline as Ross Duggan curled a beauty into Antkowiak's far bottom corner from 25 yards with over half an hour remaining.
In a game that was all about missed chances, Duggan's opportunity to bring the hosts back level was perhaps the biggest of the lot, as with acres of space he was found on the right-hand channel but found the wrong side of Antkowiak's near post when nearly all spectators thought the ball had rippled the back of the net.
Bottesford were in no mood for surrendering their lead, and defender Wayne Graves pulled out all the stops to deny Duggan with a magnificent last-gasp challenge.
Two late sin bins then hindered AFC's hopes for a leveller, as Duggan was sent off the pitch straight after Graves' challenge for dissent.
But chances continued to come, and Webster's effort inside the area was blocked by a crowd of bodies before Matt Wilson headed the subsequent corner over the bar.
Returning onto the pitch, Duggan was the next to send an aerial effort wide, diverting another good Webster delivery past the wrong side of the post before Morgan James too was sent to the sin bin.
Substitute Gavin King had what was ultimately the last opportunity, with a Bottesford player getting in front of his header from Cameron Dear's whipped cross on the stroke of injury time.
The result ends AFC's home winning run of three matches in the NCEL Premier Division, whilst a late win for Athersley Recreation at Hemsworth brings the gap above the bottom to eight points for Matt Chatfield's side.
Final score | AFC Mansfield 1-2 Bottesford Town Scorers | Duggan (55') - Fenton (45'+2), Hutson (51')
Bulls XI | Warhurst (GK), Slone (Walker 70'), Sketchley, Harrison, Wilson, Annable (C), James, McMillan (Dear 46'), Duggan, Ryan (King 75'), Webster
Unused subs | Saleh (GK)
Yellow cards | McMillan (43'), Duggan (66'), Ryan (68'), James (90'+1)
Red cards | Duggan (73')
Bottesford Town XI | Antkowiak (GK), Newman (Johnson 24'), Graves, Ridley, Johnson (C), McCaffery, Leaning (Spencer 85'), Ellender (Abdullah 58'), Fenton, Cook, Hutson
Unused subs | Phillips, Train
Yellow cards | Newman (19'), McAffrey (70')
Man of the Match | Ross Duggan