Captain Danny O’Connor was the match-winner as Bray Wanderers gave themselves a massive chance of staying in the Airtricity League Premier Division next season defeating Limerick 1-0 at the Carlisle Grounds.
O’Connor’s header in first half injury-time was enough to see off the challenge of Limerick, who had defender Samuel Oji sent-off in the second half.
The victory snaps a 15-game run without a victory that stretched back to June and, more importantly for Bray, it lifts them three points above Shelbourne at the foot of the table.
There will be nervous weeks ahead as both teams battle to preserve their Premier Division status.
Bray’s remaining two games are against Bohemians and Dundalk, while Shelbourne face Limerick and UCD.
The win means the Students have also been dragged back into the relegation play-off picture, with Martin Russell’s young side just three points ahead of Bray.
A poor first half produced few chances of note and little to brighten up a dull afternoon at the Wicklow venue. It showed that neither side had played in almost two weeks.
Predictably, Bray’s best chances fell to Jason Byrne with the home side enjoying more possession as the half wore on.
The veteran striker first scuffed a shot wide after Ismahil Akinade had picked him out in space midway through the half. Ten minutes later, Kieran Marty Waters floated the ball over to the back post, where the unmarked Byrne could only direct his header wide.
Carel Tiofack was central to both of Limerick’s half-chances in the opening 45 minutes. His early corner was headed wide by centre-half Oji. As the half drew to a close, the winger cut the ball back to Rory Gaffney in the box, but the striker drilled the ball over the bar.
A set-piece always looked like providing the breakthrough and so it proved in added time at the end of the half.
Waters curled the free-kick towards the back post where Danny O’Connor rose highest to head the ball down beyond the reach of Shane Cusack and into the Limerick goal.
The second half saw little improvement on the quality of the first, with both sides guilty of wasting possession on several occasions.
Byrne picked out advancing Mulroy soon after the restart. The midfielder’s movement and control were good; the shot less so. The ball clipped the side-netting.
Limerick were down to ten men just after the hour mark as Oji picked up his second yellow card for clattering into Akinade after the ball had been cleared from a Limerick corner.
An incensed Limerick manager Stuart Taylor was given his marching orders for his protestations.
Thereafter, Bray sought to press home their numerical superiority. Dave Webster’s through ball set Byrne away as Limerick pushed up to play offside. The finish lacked composure and the advantage remained just one.
There was a late scare for Bray as David O’Leary’s free-kick struck the upright. Had it found the net it would have been deeply embarrassing for Darren Quigley as the Bray keeper had opted to see it past the post.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; David Webster, Danny O’Connor, Shane O’Connor, Dean Zambra; Kevin Maher (Gary Dempsey 85), Ismahil Akinade, John Mulroy, Kevin O’Connor, Kieran Marty Waters (Kevin Knight 82); Jason Byrne (Daire Doyle 89).
Subs not used: Eoin Hyland, Kevin O’Leary, Niall Cooney, Shane Redmond.
Limerick: Shane Cusack; Patrick Nzuzi (Tony Whitehead 85), Samuel Oji, Stephen Folan, Robbie Williams; Carel Tiofack (Shaun Kelly 73), Joe Gamble, David O’Leary, Jason Hughes, Daragh Rainsford (Barry Sheedy 43); Rory Gaffney.
Subs not used: Barry Ryan, Kieran Hanlon, Colm Murphy, Val Feeney.
Referee: Graham Kelly.