Two second half goals from Mikey Drennan ensured Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk shared the points as a frantic encounter in Tallaght Stadium finished 2-2 on Friday night.
Dundalk had established a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead as David McMillan and Ronan Finn netted immediately either side of half-time, but the dismissal of Lilywhites goalkeeper Gary Rogers after 55 minutes proved the catalyst for Rovers' redemption.
Hoops boss Pat Fenlon made two changes to the side that started the goalless draw in Derry last week; Stephen McPhail replaced the suspended Keith Fahey and Gary McCabe came in for Gavin Brennan. Stephen Kenny named the same strong Dundalk line-up for the fourth successive league game.
These two sides boasted the meanest defences in the division, having conceded just one goal apiece before the game began. However Rovers' three scoreless draws to Dundalk's sole 1-1 stalemate in Limerick saw the Lilywhites open up a four-point lead over the Hoops.
What was set up to be a tight encounter turned out to be anything but, as both sides attacked from the off, with Daryl Horgan forcing an early save from Craig Hyland.
A set-piece really should have seen Shamrock Rovers take the lead in the opening ten minutes, as Sean O'Connor's whipped a right-wing centre invitingly for a host of hooped attackers. However somehow nobody in a green and white shirt was able to get a head to the ball and Dundalk survived unscathed.
Rovers had the crossbar to thank when Darren Meenan's looped cross appeared to deceive Hyland but the rebound fell kindly for the Hoops to clear. The home side pressed upfield with Drennan and Gary McCabe's header and shot respectively just evading Gary Rogers' right-hand post.
McCabe was looking particularly dangerous and he turned his former teammate Sean Gannon inside and out before the young full-back took a yellow card to stop him breaking into the box. The away side's high-pressing game was causing Rovers problems down the other end though.
Darren Meenan intercepted a hospital pass from Ryan Brennan to Conor Kenna and found himself one-on-one with Hyland, but the Rovers goalkeeper was quick off his line and made the block with his legs. The home side continued to live dangerously, however, and paid the price on the stroke of half-time.
After the hitherto impressive David Webster was caught under a straightforward long ball, captain Kenna seemed to have the situation under control, but he was disposed by David McMillan, who strolled through and placed the ball expertly between Hyland's legs.
It was harsh medicine for the home side who had looked enterprising throughout the first half, and their carelessness was to cost them dearly within 20 seconds of the restart as former Hoop Ronan Finn doubled Dundalk's lead.
Finn, who was intermittently booed throughout the first half, did little to endear himself further to the home support as he strode in behind the Rovers defence and beat Hyland with a toe-poke at the near post before wheeling away to celebrate with his teammates.
Dundalk looked all set to close the game out from that point, but the home side continued to play positive football. Their industry was rewarded before the hour when Ryan Brennan raced in on goal and was flattened by Gary Rogers. Referee Neil Doyle had no choice but to give a penalty and a red card for the goalkeeper.
Drennan stroked the ball high past the dive of substitute ‘keeper Gabriel Sava, and moments later the scores were level as Drennan again did well to fight off the challenge of Dane Massey and curl the ball beautifully into the top corner.
Drennan really should have secured his hat-trick and all three points three minutes from time as substitute Brandon Miele pulled the ball back from the endline, but with an open net at his mercy the striker skied the ball from 10 yards.
The tension spilled over the touchline as Fenlon had words regularly with Kenny's assistant Vinny Perth, while Fenlon's assistant Glenn Cronin was sent to the stands late on after he squared up to Chris Shields.
Dundalk had a great chance to steal it at the death as a swift counter-attack saw the uncharacteristically quiet Richie Towell play in McMillan, but Hyland got down to smother the ball and the points were deservedly shared.
Shamrock Rovers: Craig Hyland; Simon Madden, Conor Kenna, David Webster, David O'Connor; Gary McCabe (Marty Waters 87), Patrick Cregg (Danny North 81), Stephen McPhail, Ryan Brennan, Sean O'Connor (Brandon Miele 75); Michael Drennan.
Subs not used: Barry Murphy (gk), Maxime Blanchard, Luke Byrne, Gavin Brennan.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Dane Massey, Andy Boyle, Brian Gartland, Sean Gannon; Darren Meenan (Gabriel Sava 55), Chris Sheilds, Ronan Finn (John Mountney 83), Richie Towell, Daryl Horgan (Stephen O'Donnell 71); David McMillan.
Subs not used: Paddy Barrett, Shane Grimes, Kurtis Byrne, Jake Kelly.
Booked: Gannon (16), Finn (79), Towell (90+5).
Sent Off: Rogers (53).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Official attendance: 4,000 (estimate)
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Mikey Drennan (Shamrock Rovers).