With Sean Newton suspended, Nick Wright injured and Mo Fofana dropped to the bench, there were recalls for Todd Jordan, Danny Rowe and Conner Robinson for this Boxing Day clash against in-form Grimsby Town at Gelder Group Sincil Bank Stadium.
Newton's absence saw Jake Sheridan slot in at left-back as referee Chris Kavanagh got things started on what was damp and grey early afternoon.
Grimsby kicked off and within the first 20 seconds a sliding challenge by Rowe on Shaun Pearson saw him pick up a yellow card. A trip on Sheridan by ex-Imp Scott Kerr then forced visiting stopper James McKeown to punch clear a dangerous Alan Power free-kick.
City continued to press with Rowe testing McKeown with a low drive from 25 yards whilst Town's first break forward saw another former Imp, Lenell John-Lewis, go down under a Tom Miller challenge but Alex Rodman drilled the set-piece straight at the wall.
In the eighth minute good skill from Robinson down the left saw him win the game's first corner but Power's delivery was headed wide by Dixon. The play immediately switched to the other end with Rodman winning a corner for his side - this was taken by Kerr who duly wheeled away in celebration after picking out Ross Hannah who gave Paul Farman no chance with a powerful header.
A minute or so after the restart Ben Tomlinson came close when he flicked a Dixon knock-on just wide; Robinson then won a corner but this was played straight out for a goal-kick by Power.
A mistimed slide by Power on Aswad Thomas earned him a booking and after the Imps dealt with the danger, Sam Hatton crudely took out Robinson for a deserved yellow. The free-kick saw Foster head against bar before Tomlinson had an effort hacked off the line.
City kept pressing for a leveller with Brown meeting a Miller cross only for his header to go straight at McKeown and midway through the opening period Dixon saw yellow for a meaty challenge on Pearson before Kerr drilled over after Power was caught in possession in his own half.
In the 33rd minute a burst of pace from Tomlinson saw him create space before blasting a foot over but Town's response wasn't long in coming as, six minutes later, skipper Craig Disley doubled their advantage.
Kerr was once again the provider with his free-kick, given after Brown tripped John-Lewis, seeing Disley hold down Miller who was left grounded before stooping to divert a diving header across Farman and into the corner of the net. Disley was booked for over-zealous celebrations before play resumed.
Hannah then tested Farman who tipped the striker's low effort behind for a corner and as the Fourth Official indicated a minimum of two added minutes, Farman kept out a deflected Rodman effort before John-Lewis fired against the post. In the melee, Brown picked up a knock and hobbled off for treatment before referee Kavanagh blew for the break.
HT: Imps 0 Grimsby 2
Whilst the Imps emerged unchanged with Brown able to resume duties, Patrick McLaughlin replaced a limping Scott Kerr for the start of the second period.
City were quickly on the offensive with a scramble seeing McKeown and Pearson crash into each other before Robinson was tripped on the edge of the box. Before Rowe fired straight at the wall, a limping Miller replaced by Dan Gray at right-back.
The Imps' next attack led to a corner which in turn led to another which was hurriedly cleared before Pearson needed treatment in his own box.
A long Gray throw then ended with Jordan hooking over from 12 yards before Pearson went to ground again clutching his ribs. Nielson was booked before play resumed and when the next stoppage came along Paul Bignot replaced the injured Pearson.
In the 63rd minute Farman was called into action when he tipped behind a curling Hannah effort whilst at the other end Bignot was booked for cynically dragging Robinson to the deck after the teenager got the better of the substitute. The resultant free-kick led to a corner on the opposite flank which came to nothing.
Andy Cook for Nielson was Town's third and final change as the game ticked into its final quarter whilst a couple of minutes later McKeown was at full stretch to keep out a Robinson shot on the turn.
A Brown flick from a Gray throw was deflected behind before Waide Fairhurst came on for Robinson and the visitors scrambled two successive flag-kicks away.
In the 78th minute Rodman became the fifth Town player to receive a caution after leaving a leg in on Gray whilst four minutes later a fifth Town corner came along and after this was cleared by Farman a switch City attack saw Sheridan run out of pitch.
Time was quickly running out as McKeown claimed a looping Dixon header whilst in the final minute Sherdian was sent off following a sliding challenge on Disley; referee Kavanagh quick to brandish a red card after the City man left the Town skipper grounded as the pair went for a loose ball.
Midway through five additional minutes Rowe had a curling effort held by McKeown and this proved the last effort of note with the visitors from the coast leaving with the points.
FT: Imps 0 Grimsby 2
7 Joe COLBECK
9 Andy COOK (for NIELSON 68)
15 Paul BIGNOT (for PEARSON 60)
20 Dayle SOUTHWELL
26 Patrick McLAUGHLIN (for KERR h/t)
GOALS: HANNAH (10), DISLEY (39)
BOOKINGS: HATTON (15), DISLEY (39), NIELSON (59), BIGNOT (64), RODMAN (78)