The Hoops left it late to secure the points in a storming finish to this keenly contested tie on a damp night in Oriel Park. In an extraordinary finale Rovers emerged with the points after a flurry of goals in the last 13 minutes of normal and added-on time.
The game started slowly but the home side threatened first when Williams was denied by a fine defensive header from Daragh Maguire. Padraig Amond then went on a fine run but was dispossessed in the box. On 12 minutes the Hoops had a let off when Cahill failed to clear and Rowe crossed for Williams to flick the ball across goal and wide from 6 yards out.
On 19 minutes an O’Connor corner was punched away and Robinson returned the ball into the box for Twigg to get a touch before Amond saw his shot blocked. Rovers started to dictate the play and Robinson set up Rice for a shot on goal on 22 minutes but his effort went just wide.
A minute later Robinson was played in by Bradley but he tried to find O’Connor and a defender got back to clear. On 25 minutes a long throw from Sullivan fell to Bradley on the edge of the box and his shot tested Cherrie in the Dundalk goal.
Rovers took a deserved lead in the 28th minute when Shane Robinson’s low shot from outside the box hit the corner of the net. The home side failed to make an impact for the remainder of the game and Padraig Amond almost put the Hoops two up just before the break when he beat Cherrie to a high ball but a defender got back to clear his header.
Dundalk emerged with renewed vigour after the break and Mannus had to race from his line to claim a through ball on 47 minutes. However the Northern Ireland international was at fault when Turners low shot from 25 yards bounced off the artificial pitch and Mannus allowed the ball to go off his shoulder and into the net.
Goalkeeper Cherrie held a Rice header from a Bradley cross on 54 minutes before Mannus atoned for his earlier mistake with a fine save from a Williams point-blank shot. A Dundalk corner yielded a chance at the back post but Rovers survived and at the other end Robinson saw his fine shot from 20 yards strike the crossbar on 63 minutes.
Rovers should have gone ahead on 65 minutes when a Bradley free-kick went across goal and Rice, Amond and Twigg all failed to get the vital touch. A minute later a sublime piece of skill from Twigg almost put the Hoops ahead but Cherrie made a fantastic save from the Scotsman’s overhead kick from a Sullivan cross.
Dundalk had a good spell of pressure in the 70th minute and forced a couple of corners that were well defended. Maguire was on hand to defend another Dundalk attack on 77 minutes before a Twigg shot was deflected for a corner in the 79th minute.
The initial corner was cleared but Kavanagh returned the ball for Price to hit the crossbar with a header and Maguire followed up to score. The joy on the terraces was short lived as Williams showed some skill to equalise straight away and deal the Hoops a severe blow.
Rovers threw caution to the wind and went looking for the winner. It took a piece of quality from Rovers top goal scorer Gary Twigg to swing the game back in the Hoops favour. With his back to goal he took the ball in the box and turned to shoot past Cherrie with five minutes remaining. Twigg was then fouled by Burns as the game entered the allotted three minutes of added-on time and substitute Baker stepped up to fire an unstoppable shot past the home ‘keeper to seal a fantastic win.