Last-gasp Byrne grabs Saints winner in thriller
St Patrick's Athletic 3 Cork City 2
After being laid down with a virus for most of the week, Liam Buckley was delivered the perfect tonic as the league champions grabbed an injury time victory in a five-goal thriller.
In a second half where the drama was as incessant as the driving rain, Conan Byrne popped up at the death to complete a fine team move instigated by Daryl Kavanagh.
His clever finish put St Patrick's Athletic on top of the table for the first time this term.
They had wrestled control of this encounter by overturning a half-time deficit, but a shocking defensive mix-up allowed Cork sub Rob Lehane to level affairs with eight minutes left to go.
Both sides threatened in a frenetic conclusion and it was the Saints who found the composure to emerge with the spoils.
The euphoric mood at the full-time whistle contrasted from the subdued atmosphere that hung over the opening 45 where the pattern was periods of Saints possession without any real incision in the final third.
St Pat's suffered a setback when Christy Fagan was forced off with an injury after only four minutes and the Leesiders struck within a quarter of an hour with their first major foray into enemy territory.
A smart cross from Liam Kearney caught the natives napping and Mark O'Sullivan forced the ball past Brendan Clarke at the second attempt.
The title-holders responded by grabbing hold of the ball again, and their full backs pressed forward with Ian Bermingham almost functioning as an extra winger on the left side.
It was all a little laboured, though, with Keith Fahey frustrated as he stepped it up a gear. Cork were resolute, alert to breaks from midfield, and economical when it came to averting danger. Faced with stern resistance, the Saints just weren't subtle enough.
They resumed in a manner that drew parallels with the Turner's Cross meeting between these sides on the opening day, when the Inchicore men stepped it up a gear after the interval to take a point.
Within three minutes, they prematurely celebrated an equaliser as Kavanagh applied the final touch to a slick move but an offside flag muted the volume.
That didn't deter them, however, and the leveller was just around the corner with Chris Forrester's ingenuity creating the space for Bermingham to charge into the box where Brian Lenihan illegally halted his march.
Byrne emphatically dispatched the resultant spot kick past Mark McNulty.
All the momentum was with the red and white shirts as the heavens opened. In the 64th minute, the increasingly porous Cork rearguard fell behind as Forrester cut loose again and sent in a teasing cross which was converted by the inrushing centre half Kenny Browne.
From there, in-running backers would have leaned heavily towards the hosts. But Cork fought back admirably from the ropes and had threatened Clarke's goal on a couple of occasions before they were gifted an equaliser when a rare Ger O'Brien error in the form of an underhit backpass was gleefully accepted by Lehane who did the rest impressively.
Buckley had another hand to play as Greg Bolger was introduced for Forrester and the pre-season title favourites regrouped to go again. Their persistence paid off in circumstances that will have made it a painful journey home for Caulfield and company.
St Patrick's Athletic – Clarke, O'Brien, Browne, Hoare, Bermingham; Fahey, Chambers (Brennan 81); Byrne, Lynch, Forrester (Bolger 86); Fagan (Kavanagh 4)
Cork City – McNulty, Lenihan, Murray, D Dennehy, Dunleavy; Morrissey, Healy; B Dennehy, Buckley (Lehane 78), Kearney (Turner 78); O'Sullivan
Ref – P Sutton (Clare)