Airtricity Premier League champions Sligo Rovers needed a late goal to beat Limerick FC 2-1 in the Showgrounds on Saturday night.
It was Limerick’s first loss of the campaign as Sligo kept up their unbeaten start to go five points clear at the top.
Goals from Anthony Elding and Jeff Henderson cancelled out Craig Curran’s opener in what was a thoroughly enthralling game.
However, the encounter ended in controversy as Daniel Galbraith was adjudged to have simulated inside the Sligo area after he fell under the challenge of Kieran Djilali.
Limerick keeper Barry Ryan was then shown a red card by referee Rob Rogers after he remonstrated with the official after the full-time whistle.
Both teams struggled to break down each other’s defences, before Craig Curran opened the scoring on 32 minutes. His low drive from just inside the Sligo area beat Rogers low to his right, much to the delight of the travelling support.
Stuart Taylor’s side almost doubled their lead on 40 minutes when Aaron Greene conceded possession from a throw-in. The Shannonsiders worked the ball into the Rovers penalty area, before Darragh Rainsford’s shot was parried away by Rogers. Evan McMillan did just enough to keep out Curran’s rebound seconds later.
Sligo eventually breached the Limerick back-line three minutes into stoppage-time at the end of the first half. Lee Lynch found Keane on the right and the Galway man’s cross was met by the head of the Elding, who headed past Ryan to level the game.
Elding had the ball in the Limerick net again on 52 minutes when Cretaro, Keane and Lynch combined to set up the former Grimsby man, who slotted the ball into the net only to be adjudged offside. Keane and Cretaro both went close on 60 and 63 minutes respectively but Ryan was equal to both attempts.
Limerick could have recaptured the lead eleven minutes from time as Keane failed to control his back pass to Rogers but the keeper was again alert to claim possession of the ball with Axel Bossekota ready to capitalise on any mistake.
The champions did eventually take the lead with just seven minutes remaining as substitute Ryan Connolly’s cross was kept in play by Elding whose ball to the front post was bundled across the line by Jeff Henderson despite the attention of several Limerick defenders.
Blues winger Galbraith looked to have earned his side a late penalty four minutes into injury-time when Djilali’s tackle saw the former Manchester United schoolboy fall to the ground but referee Rogers didn’t give it and the game ended in controversial scence as Ryan was re-carded for his protestations.
SLIGO ROVERS - Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Evan McMillan, Jeff Henderson, Ross Gaynor; Raffaele Cretaro (Kieran Djilali, 75), David Cawley, Lee Lynch, Seamus Conneely, Aaron Greene (Ryan Connolly, 64); Anthony Elding.
Subs not used: Ciaran Kelly, Pascal Millien, Iarfhlaith Davoren, Liam Martin, Marty Owens.
LIMERICK FC - Barry Ryan; Patrick Nzuzi, Stephen Folan, Brian O’Callaghan, Robbie Williams (Shaun Kelly, 46); Shane Tracy (Steve McGann, 69), Joe Gamble, Danny Galbraith, Axel Bossekota, Joe Gamble; Craig Curran, Darragh Rainsford (Stephen Bradley, 56).
Subs not used: Shane Cusack, Barry Sheedy, Aaron Browne, Shane Costelloe.
Bookings: Curran (3), Bradley (77), Galbraith (93).
Sendings Off: B Ryan (95).