OXFORD United’s play-off hopes were given a jolt as fellow contenders Lincoln City claimed an important three points at Grenoble Road.

Danny Mandroiu scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot two minutes into the second half, with the Imps playing the closing stages with 10 men after Dylan Duffy was shown a second yellow card.

Des Buckingham named an unchanged side from the one which thrashed Peterborough United 5-0, with one change to the bench as Cameron Brannagan returned from injury in place of James Henry.

Both teams used the opening quarter of an hour to suss each other out, with the Imps having the first sight of goal shortly before the 15-minute mark when their skipper Paudie O’Connor was left unmarked at the back post, and headed straight at Jamie Cumming from a corner.

United’s first true sighter of goal came with 25 minutes on the clock, when Fin Stevens played Tyler Goodrham through the middle, with the youngster’s fizzing strike from outside the box warming the gloves of Lukas Jensen.

With half an hour played, Duffy, on as an early substitute for the injured Reeco Hackett, found space left of centre on the edge of the penalty area, but his deflected effort proved a comfortable save for Cumming.

At the other end, Greg Leigh bombed down the left and slid a ball across for Goodrham, who saw his first-time strike parried away by Jensen, in what was the first big opportunity for the U’s.

Freddie Draper was the latest to have a go, but his shot sailed wide after he got himself into the left channel of the penalty box.

The game at this point had opened up, with Mark Harris shooting down the throat of Jensen with an arrowed effort just inside the area.

As the game edged towards half-time, another great opportunity was presented to United when Owen Dale’s teasing cross found Harris in the centre, but the Welshman’s sidefooted effort was placed narrowly wide in the final bit of goalmouth action in the first half.

Within 60 seconds of the opening period, the visitors took the lead when Mandroiu slammed home from the penalty spot after Ruben Rodrigues was deemed to have committed a foul on Ben House during a goalmouth scramble by Cumming’s right-hand post.

The Imps searched for a second when Joe Taylor led a one-man counter-attack before firing into the sidnetting from a difficult angle.

Just before the hour mark, Buckingham made his first switch as Brannagan replaced Goodrham in one of the advanced midfield roles.

Draper hooked over from the second phase of play after a corner, before Brannagan’s long-ranger drew a stop out of Jensen in the Lincoln goal.

Buckingham’s next switches came on 70 minutes when Josh McEachran and Dale were replaced by Billy Bodin and Marcus Browne respectively, as Brannagan dropped into the single six position in midfield.

With seven minutes to go, Duffy was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Browne down the U’s right. The noise inside the ground stepped up a level, as did the intensity on the pitch, with both teams aware of how important a goal could’ve been.

Six minutes of stoppage time were signalled, however Browne’s blazed effort from distance and Bodin’s bending free kick over the crossbar from 25 yards were as close as United got to finding a late equaliser.

Oxford United (4-3-3): Cumming; Stevens, Long, Brown, Leigh; Goodrham (Brannagan 59), McEachran (Bodin 70), Rodrigues (McGuane 87); Dale (Browne 70), Harris, Murphy.

Unused subs: Eastwood, Thorniley, Smyth.

Booked: Rodrigues, Browne, McGuane, Brannagan.

Sent off: None.

Lincoln City (3-4-1-2): Jensen; Mitchell, O’Connor, Roughan; Sorensen (Eyoma 90+2), Erhahon, Mandroiu, Hackett (Duffy 8); House; Taylor (Makama 76), Draper ((Moylan 76) Jackson 90+2).

Unused subs: Wright, Burroughs.

Booked: Mitchell, Duffy, O’Connor, Taylor, Mandroiu, House, Erhahon.

Sent off: Duffy.

Referee: Lee Swabey (Devon).

Attendance: 9,587 (1,114 visitors).