TEN-MAN Drogheda United guaranteed themselves European football next season with a dramatic 2-1 victory over champions Sligo Rovers at Hunky Dory Park and climbed to second place in the league.
Drogheda led at half-time thanks to Alan McNally's powerful header, but in a crazy couple of minutes just after the break Ian Buchanan's equaliser looked offside and Declan 'Fabio' O'Brien received a second bookable offence for remonstrating with the linesman.
Sligo assumed control but it was 10-man Drogs who got the winner in the dying minutes through Gannon to add European qualification to League Cup success and inflict a second league defeat of the season on Sligo.
"We made it hard for ourselves but thank God, we got it in the end. We worked hard all season and we're chuffed to get the result," Drogheda defender Alan Byrne said.
"We're going to aim for second. We'll keep it going to the end. Our aim all season was to get to Europe.
"Nice to beat the champions, we've won the EA Sports Cup and now we've got Europe."
Drogheda started the game strongly with Ian Baraclough's champions looking a bit jaded after a week of celebrations in the northwest and they duly took the lead.
The opening goal arrived on 29 minutes as Alan McNally powered Eric Foley's corner beyond Richard Brush and into the bottom right-hand corner.
Mick Cooke's men should have doubled their lead before the break after peppering the Sligo goal with shots but none of them found the onion sack.
The sides were level six minutes after the break after Ian Buchanan finished to the net seconds after striking the upright.
There were calls for offside, even though replays showed the the Drogs defence had played Buchanan on. Declan O'Brien, who had been harshly booked for deliberate handball in the opening period, was too vociferous in his protestations and was rightly booked for a second time.
Sligo assumed control and forced Gabriel Sava into a number of good saves and were made to pay.
Sligo failed to clear their lines and Gavin Brennan's back-heel released Brian Gannon in the area and the midfielder curled in a beauty to send the home fans into raptures.
The champions had a huge chance to steal a draw at the death but Raf Cretaro failed to meet a cross from two yards and Sava saved Lee Lynch's follow-up.