St Patrick's Athletic gave their chances of Premier Division survival a massive boost as they came from two goals down to beat newly-crowned champions Cork City 4-2 at Richmond Park on Friday night.
John Caulfield’s City made eight changes from the team who sealed the title on Monday night with a scoreless draw at hom to Derry City.
Pats manager Liam Buckley made just the one change as Michael Barker returned at right-back in place of the suspended Graham Kelly.
The home side formed a guard of honour as the new league champions walked onto the pitch, a reverse scenario to the one that unfolded when the Saints won the title back in 2013.
Cork had the first shot on goal as Kieran Sadlier unleashed a 25-yard thunderbolt which had Skowron at full stretch, but luckily for Pats his effort just went over the bar.
Sadlier then had another effort this time it was spilt by Skowron before a scramble occurred in the box, with the Saints defence breathing a sigh relief at conceding a corner.
From the corner, City took the lead as Ryan Delaney tapped in from close range after the Saints dealt with the corner poorly and he hit a left-footed shot that spun past Skowron in the Pats goal.
Buckley’s side responded well and had a chance to level the scores through Conan Byrne, who was played through by Paul O'Conor. Byrne, who made a fantastic run, forced a good save out of Alan Smith when the ball seemed destined to go into the bottom corner.
The momentum the Saints were building was all but killed as the champions doubled the lead through Kieran Sadlier .
The winger cut inside, beating his man in the process, before hitting a brilliant strike which cracked the inside of the left-hand post before hitting the net.
19: GOAL!— eirSport (@eirSport) October 20, 2017
Pat's 0-2 Cork.
Kieran Sadlier with one of the goals of the season! pic.twitter.com/32NKueJLGO
Dutch defender Jordi Balk gave the Saints some hope after he headed home a Conan Byrne corner from close range to the delight of the Richmond Park faithful.
Ex-Cork City man Billy Dennehy levelled the score five minutes before half-time. He picked up the ball on the left wing and cut inside to beat his man before slotting the ball into the far corner past Alan Smith with his right foot.
Despite the Saints' continued pressure, it was very nearly Cork who took the lead as Lukas Skowron once again got himself in to all sorts of trouble. Kieran Sadlier took advantage, but with a tight angle to shoot from his shot just went over the bar.
Moments later Pats took the lead as a poor back pass from Shane Griffin gifted the opportunity to skipper Ian Bermingham, who made no mistake as he side-footed past Smith to give Buckley’s side a vital lead in their pursuit of Premier Division survival.
"Tidy finish, especially with the fans shouting for a peno."— eirSport (@eirSport) October 20, 2017
"I WAS SHOUTING FOR A PENO!"
Brian Kerr pic.twitter.com/vDFLTzyik9
The game was almost sealed with twenty minutes to go as Conan Byrne cut in from the right hand side and bore down on goal before trying to place it into the far corner with his left foot, only to be denied by Conor McCarthy on the goal line.
The Saints put daylight between the two sides in the latter stages of the game as a long ball down the line from Ian Bermingham sent Billy Dennehy to chase the ball down the line.
He put in a fantastic cross to the front post for Kurtis Byrne to head home, sending a huge roar of relief around Richmond Park as it hit the back of the net.
A vital result for the Saints as they take a huge step towards survival with a victory over the champions.
Liam Buckley’s side now go to Derry on the last day of the season knowing that a point would but secure Premier Division safety for next season.
Cork City: Alan Smith; Conor McCarthy, Ryan Delaney, Robbie Williams (Karl Sheppard 45), Sean McLoughlin; Kieran Sadlier, Greg Bolger, Jimmy Keohane, Shane Griffin; Achille Campion (Gearoid Morrissey 76), Connor Ellis (Stephen Dooley 61).
Subs not used: Mark McNulty, Alan Bennett, Conor McCormack, Seán O’Mahony.
Bookings: Achille Campion (58).
St Patrick's Athletic: Lukas Skowron; Michael Barker, Lee Desmond, Jordi Balk, Ian Bermingham; Owen Garvan (J.J Lunney 90), Killian Brennan, Paul O’Conor (Kurtis Byrne 23), Conan Byrne, Billy Dennehy; Christy Fagan (Ian Turner 76)
Subs not used: Patrick Jennings, Gavin Peers, Rory Feely, Darragh Markey.
Referee: Robert Hennessy.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Conan Byrne (St. Patrick’s Athletic).