Spanish star Bernabe had given the City youngsters a deserved first half advantage with a sublime finish.
And then centre forward Delap took centre stage as he capped a hugely impressive all-round display by grabbing two goals in the final two minutes to set the seal on a fine night’s work at the One Call Stadium.
It may have been 193 days since our last competitive outing due to the COVID-19 pandemic but City came out with a collective spring in our step.
Though there was a youthful look to the side, the players were not unbowed by the prospect of facing a much more experienced, League Two opposition with our possession-based approach soon creating time and space.
Urged on by assistant head coach Danny Walker, who was leading the team for the night with new head coach Enzo Maresca in quarantine, it was City created the first real opening, skipper Felix Nmecha’s 10th minute free-kick whistling just wide.
With Liam Delap’s pace and power a constant threat, City looked a potent threat every time we attacked.
Goalkeeper James Trafford did need to be alert to deflect Tyrese Sinclair’s goalbound shot but it was City who deservedly struck first on 23 minutes.
Delap was the architect, threading a superb through ball into the path of Adrian Bernabe on the left flank.
There was still much to do but the young Spaniard skilfully cut inside before drilling a fine low shot into the bottom corner of the net for our opening goal of the new season.
Smart work by Sam Edozie then put Delap in on goal and only desperate Mansfield defence cleared the danger as the striker sought to shoot.
A snapshot volley from Mansfield’s Ollie Clarke arrowed wide to fire a reminder of the Stags’ own attacking threat.
Trafford then came out smartly to clear from Nicky Maynard before saving the striker’s subsequent snapshot.
Mansfield keeper Marek Stech then earned his spurs diving low to parry away Edozie’s goalbound effort.
It was end to end stuff and a feisty affair too with Delap and Ryan Sweeney both booked after a brief flare-up.
The hosts stepped up the pressure after the restart and came within an ace of levelling on 55 minutes.
Benning’s half volley was only parried by Trafford but, fortunately for City, Sinclair completely miscued the rebound with the goal gaping.
Trafford was called into action keeping out Reid’s downward header before at the other end Delap tried to lob the keeper only to fail to get sufficient purchase on his effort.
And the City keeper needed to be alert once more to deny Sinclair with a smart stop before Aaron O’Driscoll diverted Delap’s goalbound shot behind.
Delap then had a great opportunity to seal the deal as he latched onto a rebound and raced clear only to mistime his effort.
There was a scare as Gordon went tumbling in the City area under Mbete’s challenge but referee To Nield was unmoved.
With Stech again denying Delap it appeared the striker was destined not to score but he finally gained the return his endeavour merited with two goals in the last two minutes.
On 89 minutes his cooly sidefooted home after some trademark fine City build up play.
And then in injury he set the seal on a wonderful night by lobbing the keeper and finishing from close range.
How we lined up
What It Means
City will look to maintain our flying start in our remaining Group E games against Scunthorpe United (Tuesday, September 29) and Lincoln City (Tuesday, November 17).
City’s Elite Development Squad are back in action on Saturday when we open our Premier League 2 campaign at home to Derby County. Kick-off at the Academy Stadium is 1pm.