County goalkeeper Elliot Parish allowed a Ryan Tafazolli header through his grasp to gift Stags a 28th-minute lead, only for home stopper Alan Marriott to spill the ball at the feet of Rene Howe to bag a 50th-minute equaliser.
But Howell proved to be the hero to push Mansfield eight points clear of the drop zone.
Boss Cox beamed: "Those points were priceless as I don't think we played very well in the second half.
"But I am not bothered about performances now, just the results.
"We just have to forget about what is going on around us and concentrate on ourselves.
"I was pleased with our endeavour and our work-ethic. But the quality wasn't there and both teams struggled to put two passes together.
"But the boys have got a bit of character. These are the games you just have to grind it out.
"Their 'keeper will feel he should have done better with our first goal. But we have got to be greedy, bite, scratch and take anything we can get to make sure we are in this league next season. That's how we have got to be. That's our goal and the sooner we nail that the better.
"It is a tough league and I hope we can come back after the summer a bit wiser and a bit cuter, and I am sure this learning curve will prove beneficial for us.
"The supporters make a massive difference when they get behind you, especially in the second half. It gives players impetus and confidence."