SHAMROCK ROVERS rescued a point, and may have rescued their season, thanks to a late, late show from Karl Sheppard at Tallaght Stadium last night.
With five minutes left on the clock reigning champions Sligo Rovers were in front and on course for another three points, which would have stretched their lead at the top of the table on a night when Derry City, St Patrick's Athletic and Dundalk all underlined their title credentials with wins.
Instead, they had to settle for a 1-1 draw as Sheppard's header gave Trevor Croly's men a point, and with Derry winning at home to Limerick it means that the Candystripes have knocked Sligo off the summit of the table for the first time this season.
And there was more bad news for Sligo as their top scorer Anthony Elding will now face a suspension after receiving a straight red card for an off-the-ball incident three minutes from time.
It was yet another draw for Croly's side, their seventh in 11 games this season. But while Rovers remain 13 points off the pace, it could have been a lot worse as defeat here would have piled on some unimaginable pressure ahead of their next game – at home to Stephen Kenny's rampant Dundalk in Tallaght on Monday night.
The Hoops came into the game knowing that to stand a real chance of being involved in the title race this season, they'd need to at least avoid defeat and in reality get a win. However, there was no sign of any urgency from the home side, or Sligo for that matter, in a dull opening period.
As the two teams sized each other up, chances were limited with a crowded midfield area. It took until the 25th minute for the first proper chance of the game to arrive, Sligo needing a brave block from Evan McMillan to keep out Ronan Finn and, from the rebound, Sligo's Alan Keane kept out James Chambers' effort.
Ten minutes later Sheppard sped down the wing and crossed for Stephen Rice, who saw his shot saved by Gary Rogers.
And three minutes before the break Rovers threatened again, with Sheppard again the instigator. Sheppard skipped past Sligo defender Gavin Peers and crossed for former Sligo man Gary McCabe, though 'keeper Rogers was on hand to keep out the effort.
It had been a strangely subdued first 45 minutes from Sligo and their boss Ian Baraclough tried to rectify that with a half-time change, bringing on Kieran Djilali for Ryan Connolly.
It was a defensive error from the Hoops, rather than some creativity from the away side, which gave Sligo their goal on 55 minutes. Keeper Barry Murphy appeared to be under little pressure when he played a ball out to Daniel Ledwith, the left back was caught off-guard and the ball bounced off Ledwith and into the path of Cawley, who slammed home.
Rovers had a chance on 61 minutes when a speculative effort by Billy Dennehy bounced just in front of Rogers and he was relieved to see it go out for a corner.
Croly made a double switch with 13 minutes to go. Attacking players Sean O'Connor and Ciaran Kilduff were thrown into action, and it was Kilduff who set up the equaliser for Sheppard, whose header powered past Rogers, while Kilduff was denied a winner in injury time as his header came off the post, at which point Sligo were down to ten.