Ollie Horgan pulled another rabbit from his big blue hat on Wednesday evening as Finn Harps edged a five-goal thriller with St Patrick’s Athletic to move within two points of eighth-placed Shelbourne.
A shock victory away to Bohemians on Saturday evening removed the threat of automatic relegation for Harps.
Now, this hard-fought win over a Europe-chasing Saints side will allow fans to dream of avoiding a play-off altogether.
Goals from Adam Foley and Stephen Folan, both their first for the club, and a late Ryan Connolly penalty sealed what could turn out to be a priceless three points at a rain-sodden Finn Park.
Luke McNally and Georgie Kelly netted in either half for the Athletic – who came into the game with ambitions of finishing third – after Foley and Folan had put Harps 2-0 up inside 11 minutes.
Striker Foley – who came into the team after Karl O’Sullivan picked up an injury in Saturday’s game, opened the scoring after just three minutes.
The two-goal cushion lasted barely a minute and, by the time Kelly levelled early in the second half, there looked only one team likely to take the points as Harps were pinned back for long periods.
Just as it had for Mark Russell’s first goal against Bohs, it was one of Tony McNamee’s patented long throws that provided the catalyst for the opener.
The initial throw was scrambled back to the midfielder and he laid the ball off for another recalled to the starting XI, Mark Coyle, to chip a ball over the top.
Lee Desmond misjudged the bounce and Foley was only too happy to take advantage, surging forward and finishing from a tight angle under pressure from McNally.
Eight minutes later, it was 2-0 and once again it was the flat trajectory of McNamee’s throw that caused the Pats all sorts of problems.
His delivery could only be flicked on by the hapless Desmond and fell for former Saint Dave Webster, who had peeled away from his marker.
Webster did brilliantly to adjust his feet and volley first-time, and Brendan Clarke did just as well to save, but there was no stopping defender Folan as he slid in to turn the loose ball home.
The shell-shocked Saints took a moment to regroup and won a corner almost directly from the kick-off and Robbie Benson sent in a left-footed inswinger.
Harps keeper Mark McGinley won’t relish watching the footage back as the experienced stopper flapped at the cross and the ball ricocheted goalwards.
Gareth Harkin managed to shovel the ball off the line but only as far as the pack of players on the opposite post, and McNally rose higher than anybody to nod into an empty net.
The Athletic grew into the game and controlled the ball for long periods but remained vulnerable down both flanks.
A well-worked move put Russell free wide on the left and his cross was nodded to the edge of the box to be met by a first-time effort from Coyle. Clarke reacted well to tip his shot over the bar.
Folan rolled a shot narrowly wide and Russell drew another fine save from Clarke as Harps continued to try and pick Pats off on the counter-attack.
The pattern continued in the second half but there was a clinical edge to the Saints’ possession, and the pressure told when Donegal native Kelly levelled nine minutes after the break.
Shane Griffin dug out a deep cross from the left flank and the on-loan Dundalk striker managed to wriggle free of Kosovar Sadiki before planting his header in the corner of McGinley’s net.
Horgan introduced 39-year-old Raff Cretaro, who helped turn losses into draws with late cameos against Shelbourne and Cork City, for the final quarter and he had an instant impact.
Webster did brilliantly to whip in a cross from the right wing and the Tubbercurry man controlled before jinking past Rory Feely, who stuck out an arm to slow down the striker.
Cretaro is too cute to allow the centre-half away with such skullduggery and he fell to the ground to emphasise the contact. Referee Robert Harvey pointed to the spot. Connolly buried it.
Remarkably, the former Shamrock Rovers midfielder could have made it to a hat-trick in the dying stages as he had two excellent chances to wrap it up.
First, sub Aidy Delap won the ball high up the field and Gareth Harkin picked out Connolly bursting in from the left, but the outrushing Clarke got just enough on his shot to divert it away from goal.
Connolly managed to beat Clarke in injury time as he rounded the keeper but, having taken it too wide, he crossed for Delap only for McNally to stick in a boot. It wasn’t to matter.
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley; David Webster, Kosovar Sadiki, Shane McEleney (Adrian Delap 84), Stephen Folan, Mark Russell; Tony McNamee (Ruairi Harkin 68), Gareth Harkin, Ryan Connolly, Mark Coyle (Raffaele Cretaro 67); Adam Foley (Sam Todd 80).
Subs not used: Patrick McGarvey (gk), Stephen Doherty, Alexander Kogler.
Booked: Ryan Connolly (27), Shane McEleney (58), Tony McNamee (63), Ollie Horgan (65), David Webster (88), Ruairi Harkin (90+6).
St. Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Luke McNally, Shane Griffin (Ben McCormack 88), Rory Feely, Lee Desmond; Jason McClelland (Billy King 62), Jamie Lennon, Jordan Gibson (Darragh Burns 78), Chris Forrester; Georgie Kelly.
Subs not used: David Titov, Ben McCormack, Billy King, Conor Kearns, Paul Cleary, Darragh Burns, Ian Bermingham.
Booked: Georgie Kelly (70), Jamie Lennon (90+1)
Referee: Robert Harvey
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Dave Webster (Finn Harps).