Caretaker boss Richard Cooper said he was proud of every one of his Mansfield players despite a much improved display only yielding a 1-1 home draw with Walsall.
Stags are looking for a new manager after sacking Graham Coughlan in midweek after their worst start for 106 years.
They are still without a win in 13 games in all competitions but pushed Walsall hard in an entertaining clash and Cooper said: “I was proud of every single one of them and I want to thank them.
“There was a lot of courage and commitment.
“They were full of desire, running and effort which is exactly what I have asked of them in the last couple of days.
“I am disappointed we didn’t get a win but, more importantly for the lads, I think they have proved that they can play.
“From the outset we wanted to let them believe in themselves, let them get on the ball and make their own decisions.”
He added: “There was a lot of honesty about the performance and I think we played some decent stuff at times.
“When we conceded, credit to the players – they kept going and did not get downbeat or bury their heads. They kept going and fighting for each other which is all I can ask.”
After Walsall’s Emmanuel Osadebe had wasted a great chance, firing straight at Marek Stech from 10 yards when unmarked, Mansfield went ahead when Walsall’s backline advanced after a corner only to see George Lapslie’s shot end up in the path of an onside Nicky Maynard who slotted calmly home.
Walsall levelled on 49 minutes as Elijah Adebayo tucked away a low ball from George Nurse.
Both sides almost won it as Maynard kicked at thin air from a great position six yards out on 67 minutes while Osadebe volleyed against the bar in added time.
Walsall boss Darrell Clarke said: “We gave a shocking goal away from an individual mistake and we missed a great chance to take the lead. But we had the better chances in the game.
“It’s been frustrating. Some of the performances have been decent but the lads are under no illusions I want more. We need to be turning these draws into wins.
“We gave away a cheap goal and then you’re chasing it again.”
Clarke was up against his former club and added: “We are frustrated as we thought that three points were up for grabs.
“We were playing a team that’s got double our budget today. Without a shadow of a doubt they are a team that should be right up there.
“On another day a point at Mansfield might be a good point. But they’re on a bad run – their worst start for a long time.”