Greg Bolger's spectacular late strike condemned Finn Harps to a relegation play-off in a dour 1-0 win for the hosts in their SSE Airtricity League Premier Division encounter at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.
The Wexford man pulled off a similar feat when the sides met in Ballybofey in March and he was the difference once more as Stephen Bradley’s side laboured to victory.
Bolger smashed a shot into the top corner after Mark McGinley, imperious in goal for Harps, had denied Dylan Watts and Graham Burke with a virtuoso double-stop.
The defeat, combined with Cork City’s 3-2 win over UCD, means the Donegal side face a play-off, as the Students are unlikely to turn around a six-point, 17-goal deficit.
Rovers went into the game without internationals Jack Byrne and Pico Lopes, away with Ireland and Cape Verde respectively, but controlled the game throughout.
McGinley had to be at his best a minute before half-time to turn a furious Watts shot over the bar and was the best player on the pitch as he pulled off a series of top saves.
He turned a Ronan Finn shot onto the post just before the hour as Rovers turned the screw and showed remarkable dexterity to deny Rovers twice late on.
He got down low to turn Watts’ shot away from goal and sprung up wonderfully to tip what looked a certain goal from Burke around the post.
McGinley was helpless to keep out Bolger’s effort from the corner, however, as Bolger picked out the top corner with a stunning drive.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Danny Lafferty, Lee Grace, Sean Kavanagh; Ronan Finn, Brandon Kavanagh (Aaron McEneff 72), Greg Bolger, Dylan Watts, Neil Farrugia (Eric Abulu 76); Graham Burke, Aaron Greene (Graham Cummins 86).
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley; Colm Deasy, Harry Ascroft, Josh Smith, Sam Todd, Mark Russell; Tony McNamee, Ruairi Harkin, Gareth Harkin, Mark Timlin (Daniel O’Reilly 69); Nathan Boyle (Mikey Place 86).
Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin).