Dave Donnelly reports from Tallaght Stadium
Daniel Carr's goal on the hour-mark was enough to see Shamrock Rovers past an impressive Sligo Rovers side at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.
The Englishman finished superbly from an excellent Sean Kavanagh cross to give the Hoops three points that had looked very unlikely until that point.
Sligo were aggrieved by the manner of the goal as Rovers played on while Rhys McCabe lay injured in the opposite half, and it proved to be the only goal of the game.
Hoops boss Stephen Bradley made four changes from the side beaten 2-1 in Waterford last week, one of which was Trevor Clarke following his season-ending knee injury.
In came Luke Byrne, Roberto Lopes and Kevin Horgan, replacing the more experienced Tomer Chencinski after losing his place earlier in the season.
And Rovers looked, in the first half, like a side lacking cohesion, particularly in the wide areas where Lewis Morrison and Caolan McAleer were afforded plenty of space.
Former Liverpool striker Adam Morgan was proving a handful off the shoulder of Grace, with Sligo's direct style suiting the deceptively quick frontman.
It was a Grace mistake that led to his first chance of the game, as the Tipperary man gave up the ball and was grateful to Lopes for throwing himself in the way of Morgan's drive.
David Cawley saw a shot deflect off Grace and behind as the visitors continued to grow in confidence against a home side who appeared to lack confidence.
A deep cross from McAleer looked destined to end on the head of Morrison at the left-hand post, but superb work from Ethan Boyle saw the winger shepherded off the ball.
Boyle was involved in injury time as the home side finally manufactured a clear opportunity, linking up with Burke in midfield before the former Aston Villa man drove his shot past the post.
The visitors continued to have the better of it in the second half and a mistake from Luke Byrne let in Lewis Morrison, but his shot was poor
A loose ball broke to Graham Burke at the other end and he tried his luck from outside the box, but his curled effort was straight at Micheál Schlingermann.
Then came the game's turning point as, with Rhys McCabe injured on the ground, Rovers pressed on up the pitch and made their extra man count.
Burke picked out Kavanagh wide on the left, and his low cross to the back post was inch-perfect to find Carr peeling away from the defender and he finished coolly on the stretch.
Sligo did have chances to reply quickly, but Patrick McClean headed McCabe's corner over before Gary Boylan sent a harmless shot into the arms of Horgan.
A superb one-touch move from Rovers nearly saw Bradon Miele played in before Burke sent a rocket of a free kick marginally over the bar.
Sligo had a penalty shot turned down when David Cawley's powerful drive was charged down by Lopes – Sligo alleged the use of an arm – but referee Neil Doyle was unmoved.
Rovers held out for the final few minutes in reasonable comfort to keep in touch with pacesetters Cork City, Dundalk and Waterford.
Shamrock Rovers: Kevin Horgan; Ethan Boyle, Lee Grace, Roberto Lopes, Luke Byrne; Greg Bolger Ronan Finn, Joel Coustrain (Brandon Miele 70), Sean Kavanagh (Sam Bone 81), Graham Burke; Dan Carr (Gary Shaw 70).
Subs not used: Tomer Chencinski (gk), David McAllister, Aaron Bolger, Dean Dillon.
Booked: Greg Bolger (84).
Sligo Rovers: Micheál Schlingermann; Gary Boylan, Kyle McFadden, Patrick McClean, Callum Waters; David Cawley, Ally Roy (Greg Moorhouse 71), Rhys McCabe, Lewis Morrison (Adam Wixted 63), Caolan McAleer (Raff Cretaro 87); Adam Morgan.
Subs not used: Mitchell Beeney (gk), Regan Donelon, Seamus Sharkey, Eduardo Pincelli, Raff Cretaro.
Booked: Kyle McFadden (16).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Attendance: 2,900 (official).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Adam Morgan (Sligo Rovers)