Chaos was the order of the afternoon at Dr. Hyde Park as promotion-chasing Roscommon and Derry ended all square in a controversial contest.
For 45 minutes, it was an ordinary run-of-the-mill league game but by the end of it all referee Seán Lonergan had shown 14 yellow, two black and two red cards.
Niall Daly and Shane McGuigan were issued with red cards late on, and Derry were left to rue being without their talisman, who had been deadly accurate from frees and play, for the final moments as a 45-metre free to win the game was sent wide by midfielder Emmett Bradley.
The prize of promotion to Division One was partly responsible for the stalemate but with mini melees breaking out all over the field in the final 20 minutes, the officials had a near impossible task to keep a handle on proceedings.
Derry made the better start with a couple of excellent points from McGuigan.
But Roscommon gradually got to grips with their opponents, and three points in two minutes from captain Donie Smith and Conor Cox edged the home side ahead.
Enda Smith extended his side's lead after being picked out up the left wing by the excellent Brian Stack who, alongside Niall Kilroy and Eddie Nolan, was becoming more influential for the hosts. Then Niall Daly landed a spectacular point from distance to leave the Rossies 0-05 to 0-02 in front after 17 minutes.
A brilliant catch from Emmet Bradley allowed the Derry midfielder to open up the Roscommon defence, procuring a fine score for Benny Heron to narrow the gap to two points, but Eddie Nolan cancelled out that score, working his way in from the right wing and bisecting the posts.
Shane McGuigan and Donie Smith swapped frees before Roscommon goalkeeper Colm Lavin did brilliantly to deflect an effort from Paul Cassidy out for a ’45, which Conor Glass misjudged into the wind.
Smith had the final say of the half when he availed of Richard Hughes’ probing delivery to leave Anthony Cunningham’s men 0-08 to 0-04 ahead at the break.
Cathal Heneghan marked his introduction at the break with a point inside 15 seconds of the restart. When Cian McKeon added another brilliant score a minute later, the Rossies appeared to be on their way to a famous win.
Padraig McGrogan opened Derry’s second-half account, but Roscommon were livid when Heneghan wasn’t allowed advantage by the referee when straight through on goal. Instead, Cox had to settle for a point from the subsequent free.
But the hosts, who had Cian McKeon black carded, completely lost their way as Derry began to impose themselves on proceedings.
Scores from Paul Cassidy and McGuigan eroded the deficit before a hat-trick of frees from Derry’s full-forward left a point between them.
Full-back Brendan Rogers ambled upfield to kick the equaliser with 11 minutes left, but it took until the 70th minute for Derry to hit the front through McGuigan’s eighth point of the contest and his side’s seventh score in succession as Roscommon centre-back Niall Daly saw red for his second yellow card.
As the tension, and the cards, mounted, Roscommon did manage to end a 25-minute scoring famine when substitute Keith Doyle kicked an excellent equaliser.
But when Brian Stack and McGuigan were sent to the line for a black and second yellow card respectively, the absence of Derry’s sharpshooter proved costly as Bradley couldn’t split the posts from a free deep into injury time.
Roscommon: Colm Lavin; David Murray, Brian Stack, Eoin McCormack; Richard Hughes, Niall Daly (0-01), Ronan Daly; Ultan Harney, Eddie Nolan (0-01); Ciaráin Murtagh, Enda Smith (0-01), Niall Kilroy; Cian McKeon (0-01), Donie Smith (0-04, 0-02f), Conor Cox (0-02, 0-01f).
Subs: Cathal Heneghan (0-01) for Ciaráin Murtagh (half-time), Diarmuid Murtagh for Kilroy (52), Keith Doyle (0-01) for McKeon (59), Andrew Glennon for Cox (66), Ciarán Sugrue for Donie Smith (68)
Derry: Odhran Lynch; Conor McCluskey, Brendan Rogers (0-01), Christopher McKaigue; Gareth McKinless, Padraig McGrogan (0-01), Conor Doherty; Conor Glass, Emmett Bradley; Oisín McWilliams, Shane McGuigan (0-08, 0-05f), Paul Cassidy (0-01); Benny Heron (0-01), Niall Loughlin, Ethan Doherty.
Subs: Ciarán McFaul for Doherty (44), Niall Toner for Heron (46), Lachlan Murray for Loughlin (48), Ben McCarron for McWilliams (70).