Substitute Colin Scanlon broke Shelbourne hearts with a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser to deprive them of promotion with Dundalk going up as champions.
Scanlon struck on 92 minutes when latching onto a ball over the top to drill a shot past Dean Delaney as the vast majority of the 2,038 crowd were stunned to silence.
Shels thought they had done enough to return to the top flight once Anto Flood had shot home midway through the second half.
Paraphrasing the bible, Shels fans at the Drumcondra end unfurled a banner before kick-off stating: 'And when they heard of the resurrection, some mocked, but we rise again.'
But it was not to be as Dermot Keely's Reds face another season in the First Division as Dundalk's runaway 6-1 win at Kildare County saw them take the title by one point.
Having been thwarted twice in the first half, Flood finally found the net with on 62 minutes.
Mark Rutherford's cross from the left wreaked havoc in the Limerick area, pin-balling around before Flood pounced to fire home on the turn from eight yards for his 15th goal of the season.
It should have been 2-0 five minutes later, but David Freeman somehow volleyed over the bar from ten yards after being picked out superbly form the right wing by Mark O'Brien.
Full credit to Limerick, who did not lie down, doing themselves and the league proud and they might have levelled on 70 minutes.
A mistake by Alan Keely allowed David Ryan a run on goal forcing Dean Delaney to race from his line and make a terrific save at the striker's feet.
But the sting in the tail arrived two minutes into time added on when Scanlon, on as an 85th minute substitute, struck. Almost the last kick of the season had decided the First Division title race.
Shelbourne: Delaney; Murphy, Brennan, Keely, Keddy; O'Brien, McAllister, McGill, Rutherford (Chambers, 79 mins.); Freeman, Flood.
Limerick 37: Dave Ryan; White, Purcell, T. Barrett, Cleary; Walsh, Hughes, Colbert (Tier, 81 mins.), Lyons (Manjor, 57 mins.), David Ryan Scanlon, 85 mins.); Sheehan.
Referee: N Doyle (Dublin).