GARDAI believe an innocent woman hit by a stray bullet could have been killed if she had been sitting at her kitchen table rather than standing there.
Patricia Cunningham (49) was shot in the lower back on Tuesday night when a bullet whizzed through the double-glazed, front window of her home in Bray, Co Wicklow, through her open sitting room door and into the kitchen before hitting her.
A second bullet lodged in a window frame.
Both shots were fired from a handgun, wielded by someone on the street outside.
She was still recovering in hospital last night.
Detectives think the thug was chasing after a rival criminal when the shots were fired.
They think the two shots into Ms Cunningham's home were probably stray bullets, but gardai are also investigating the possibility that her house might have been targeted by mistake.
Ms Cunningham, who lives alone in an end-of-terrace house on Greenpark Road in a quiet area of Bray, had only returned home from work when she was shot.
Surgeons at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin operated to remove the bullet yesterday, but Ms Cunningham's injuries are not life threatening.
A friend said last night: "She was very lucky in that she was standing at the kitchen table rather than sitting at it, and the bullet struck her on the hip.
"She didn't know what had happened. She heard the bang and at first thought a light bulb had blown or a lighter had fallen into the fire.
"But she also had a major pain in her back and when she reached back there, she saw the blood on her hand."
The incident took place shortly after 7.30pm on Tuesday, and Ms Cunningham was immediately rushed to St Vincent's.
The scene was sealed off while officers from the Garda Technical Bureau examined it yesterday morning. A glazier later replaced the window.
Gardai said last night that the woman had no involvement in crime and had unwittingly become caught up in what appeared to be a feud between local thugs.
This was the second shooting in the area within three weeks. On January 16, gardai launched an investigation after shots were fired on the road. Two men wearing balaclava helmets were seen fleeing the scene.
Last week another shooting took place in the Fassaroe area.
Gardai are satisfied that the incidents are not linked and are making substantial progress in their inquiries into one of them.
Family members of Ms Cunningham, who did not wish to be identified, were at pains to point out that she was an innocent victim.
"She lives there with her two dogs, and she wouldn't hurt a fly," one neighbour said.
"It's absolutely shocking. Nobody even heard anything along the road. The first we knew of it was when the garda helicopter was hovering above."
Gardai have appealed to anyone who was in the Greenpark Road, Lower Dargle Road or People's Park areas of Bray between 7 and 8 on Tuesday evening to contact Bray garda station on (01) 666 5300 or to phone the confidential line, 1800 666111.