ST. ANTHONY'S pulled off a snatch and grab at Finn Park on Sunday afternoon to leave Ashford Rovers sour-faced and pointless.
After taking a 26th minute lead through a Danny Byrne penalty, it looked like Rovers were going to survive the Saints' onslaught and hang on for their first victory of the season.
But then Matt Mannix headed home Martin Williams' corner kick with six minutes to go and threw the outcome into disarray. And Matt Kennedy popped up in the 90th minute to stroke home a dramatic winner and steal the victory for his side.
We may have been treated to a flourished finish in Kilcoole but we were made to endure a dreary opening.
St. Anthony's arrived in the Premier Division as Division 1 champions while Rovers jetted in from Division 2 but it was a very even start which the latter would soon begin to edge.
Darren Collopy is no stranger to the top flight though and his 16th minute effort was the first shot of any real note. Danny Kavanagh's flighted free kick was nodded down by Robbie O'Gara and Collopy improvised but his acrobatic effort didn't call Rovers goalkeeper Gerry Kelly into action.
Rovers then had the ball in the back of the net seven minutes later but referee Dominique Lachausse blew his whistle for offside just as Danny Byrne nodded home Paul Burton's delivery.
Quick-thinking from Byrne shortly afterwards saw him rush a throw-in on the left that found Dean Doyle but before the striker could cause any damage he was sent tumbling to the floor by a panicked Kris Farrell and Lachausse duly pointed to the penalty spot.
Byrne blasted home the spot kick and the post felt the full brunt of goalkeeper Irah Redmond's frustration.
Mannix gave an indication of his threat when he met Williams' 35th minute corner but on that occasion his header landed in Kelly's grateful palms.
Collopy went close to levelling matters three minutes before the break when he killed a searching crossfield ball on his chest but he steered his shot just wide.
And then a searing break from Byrne saw him play a peach of a pass ahead of Doyle but the youngster was a toe's length away from getting on the end of it.
The second period was an extremely one-sided contest, with the hosts continuously bombarding the Rovers goal.
Matt Kennedy's diving header flew wide of the target in the 46th minute before Collopy's precise finish clipped the foot of the post minutes later.
Martin Williams then charged down the right flank before fizzing in a low cross. Kelly hesitated and Collopy came agonisingly close to profiting but his bundled effort finished the wrong side of the post.
Anto's then attacked down the other wing and Danny Kavanagh's excellently drilled cross picked out Williams. He should've scored but he contrived to knock the ball straight at Kelly instead.
The relentless attacks continued as Keith Reynolds' goalbound header from Robbie O'Gara's cross had to be cleared away by Craig Quinn and then Kavanagh's thunderous drive was blocked brilliantly on the line by the impressive Mick Taylor.
In the 75th minute there was a coming together between an Ashford attacker and Redmond and it was clear that the tension from the match was starting to seep into the players.
On 81 minutes, Reynold's played a diagonal ball into Williams' path and the striker get a low effort away that forced Kelly into a superb, low save.
Then, just as it was starting to seem like it wasn't going to be St. Anthony's day, they bagged an equaliser. Williams' in-swinging corner was glanced on by Mannix and Ashford could only look on as it bulged the back of the net.
Another flag kick for the hosts lead to a frantic scramble in the penalty area that eventually saw the ball headed goalwards and it was destined for the goal until substitute Leon Murphy leapt to head off the line.
Murphy's saved the day on that occasion but nobody could do anything to prevent Kennedy from sliding home on the stroke of full time after the midfielder had been slipped through.
Top Form: Danny Byrne (Ashford Rovers): Outstanding work-rate.