FOR four minutes it looked like Stephen Kenny could enjoy his summer holiday, the pressure valve had been loosened.
But John Dunleavy tightened it back up with a firm 88th-minute header that silenced Tallaght Stadium and gained a modicum of revenge for a Cork City side who were denied victory in injury-time when these sides met at Turner's Cross earlier this season.
Gary Twigg's 84th-minute opening goal felt like a watershed in Rovers' season. They had missed a host of chances and their fans had grown impatient until Aaron Greene's cross was expertly guided home by the prolific Scotsman.
Cue pandemonium everywhere, except in the City ranks. They regrouped and went in search of the equaliser and Dunleavy duly delivered with a bullet header from former Hoop Tadhg Purcell's cross that gave Oscar Jansson no chance.
Rovers pushed, but to no avail and -- after Sligo Rovers were held in Dalymount -- they will know they missed a gilt-edged chance of closing the gap at the top to five points. They lost no ground, but that was little consolation.
The chances came thick and fast from the off as Rovers looked like they meant business. Kenny deployed Conor McCormack and Ronan Finn in the centre of midfield and they were able to dictate the tempo as another fresh face, Daryl Kavanagh, pulled his shot wide early on.
The Hoops should have gone in front after 18 minutes when Gary McCabe capitalised on an error from Vinny Sullivan and delivered a delicious cross for Twigg at the back post, but the Scot's header drifted just wide. He then thought he was in on the half-hour mark only for Gavin Kavanagh to brilliantly dive in and block the effort.
Purcell had a chance drift over from similar range after a slick counter, but the pressure kept coming at the other end and Kavanagh capitalised on a slack defensive header to race into the box, only for Kalen Spillane to intervene and deny him the shooting opportunity.
And the visitors almost went in ahead only for Swedish stopper Jansson to expertly intervene at the feet of Sullivan as the striker attempted to round him after Colin Healy's pass found Purcell onside.
Having gone close in the first half, Rovers smelled blood after half-time. First Kavanagh again denied Twigg, who then volleyed over, before Finn raced on to a clearance and cracked a rising half-volley off the woodwork, while Healy bravely denied Kavanagh's follow up.
Graham Gartland should have scored from the corner that followed, but his free header from McCabe's cross flew over.
It was City who were left fuming when Rob Rogers denied them a stonewall penalty. Jansson's punch was underhit and Purcell and Dennehy went for the loose ball, the striker got there first and was met with a crunching late tackle. Assistant manager Billy Woods was dismissed for his protests as play was incredibly waved on.
Dennehy and Twigg spurned chances, before the striker finally found the net and the relief in Tallaght was palpable. It wouldn't last.
SHAMROCK ROVERS -- Jansson; Gilbert, Sives (Hawkins 61), Gartland, Powell; McCabe, Finn, McCormack, Dennehy; Kavanagh (Greene 74), Twigg.
CORK CITY -- McNulty; Healy, Kavanagh, Spillane, Dunleavy; O'Neill, Morrissey, Duggan, Horgan (Turner 91); Sullivan (Kenny 94), Purcell.
REF -- R Rogers (Dublin)