Sligo Rovers moved to within eleven points of fourth placed Shamrock Rovers in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division on Sunday evening courtesy of a 2-0 win over Limerick at the Showgrounds.
The Setanta Cup champions were relatively comfortable throughout but had to wait until the 84th minute to unlock a stubborn Limerick defence as Sean Maguire tapped home from a David Cawley corner.
The Bit o'Red rubber stamped the win three minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game after Danny North neatly placed the ball under Limerick goalkeeper Shane Cusack for his twelfth goal of the season.
Sligo made five changes to the team which was knocked out of Europe midweek. Manager John Coleman made five changes to his side, introducing Maguire, Gavin Peers, Danny Ledwith and two members of last year's U19 squad, Ruairi Keating and Regan Donelon.
Martin Russell took charge of the Blues for the first time. He made three changes to the team which suffered a 3-0 defeat to basement side Athlone Town a fortnight ago. Shane Duggan, Michael Leahy and Tam McManus all returning for the away side.
The Bit o'Red were going in search of their eight league win of the season. And they really should have taken an early lead with just two minutes played. Donelon did well to find space behind Limerick right back Patrick Nzuzi before he found Keating inside the area. The young Westport man was however unable to keep his rising shot beneath Cusack's crossbar.
The home side enjoyed total dominance of possession during the opening few minutes. Seamus Conneely went close with six played, two minutes before Keating was extremely unlucky to see his bending shot beat Cusack but not the crossbar.
Limerick eventually settled into the game and began to cause Rovers a few problems through wingers Ian Turner and Colm Murphy. Robbie Williams' speculative long range effort was easily dealt with by Sligo net minder Gary Rogers on 23. Ledwith conceded possession at the edge of his own area five minutes later, but Rory Gaffney's volley which followed was wildly off target.
Cusack did just enough to push Maguire's fumbled effort around his post despite the attention of the incoming Danny North two minutes from the break. The unmarked Gavin Peers could only shoot over from a Cawley corner seconds later.
Cawley saw his side footed effort from the edge of the box comfortably saved by Cusack ten minutes into the second period, as both teams struggled to add any sort of rhythm to their respective games.
John Coleman reshuffled his Sligo pack just past the hour mark as he introduced Paul O'Conor to the right wing and Evan McMillan to attack. The move almost paid off on 63 when Maguire got on to the end of a McMillan knock on before rounding the keeper, only to see Nzuzi intercept at the vital moment to touch the ball away for a corner.
Maguire saw his dipping shot swerve past the Limerick post on 70, a minute before Rovers had a goal chalked off for offside. North the guilty party.
Cusack did well to divert North's next effort 15 minutes from full time after the Grimsby man was sent through by a long ball from the back from Spillane. The Lims goalkeeper spreading himself well as he came to meet the striker at the edge of his area.
Sligo remained in control and deservedly took the lead on 84. Cusack pushed Ledwith's shot from 25 yards over his crossbar to win a corner for the FAI Cup holders. From the resulting set piece, McMillan nodded Cawley's corner goalward for the waiting Maguire who tapped the ball into the net from point blank range. His first goal for the Showgrounds side since arriving on loan from West Ham at the start of the season.
Rogers was called into action late on as he was forced to tip Agyemang's deflected shot around his post with just sixty seconds of regular time to play.
But \rovers secured all three points in the third minute of added time. Maguire did well to rob a Limerick player of possession inside his own half before supplying North with a well timed through ball. North then sent the ball through the legs of the oncoming Cusack for his fifth league goal of the season.
The Westerners now sit in fifth place, eleven points off the Hoops with a game to play. While the Thomond Park outfit stay in ninth, one point off Drogheda also with a game in hand.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Kalen Spillane, Regan Donelon (for Paul O'Conor 62); Sean Maguire, Seamus Conneely, David Cawley, Danny Ledwith; Ruairi Keating (for Evan McMillan 62), Danny North.
Limerick: Shane Cusack; Patrick Nzuzi, Stephen Folan, Michael Leahy, Robbie Williams; Prince Agyemang, Shane Duggan, Ian Turner (for Samuel Oji 79), Colm Murphy (for Jason Hughes HT); Tam McManus (for Ross Mann 61), Rory Gaffney.
Referee: Paul Tuite.