Derry City avoided an SSE Airtricity League relegation playoff as they drew 1-1 with bottom club Cork City at Turner's Cross on Monday night.
A neat finish from Beineón O’Brien-Whitmarsh had given Cork City the lead in the second half but an Oluwaseun Akintunde header ensured Derry secured a point and, with other results going their way, they will be playing Premier Division football in 2021.
The Leesiders' interim manager Colin Healy made three alterations from his team that lost 2-1 away to Sligo Rovers just over two weeks ago - the day that they were officially relegated from the Premier Division.
Centre-back Joseph Olowu has since returned to his parent club Arsenal after his loan spell was cut short while Kit Elliott and goalkeeper Liam Bossin dropped to the bench with Mark McNulty, Cian Bargary and Dylan McGlade replacing the trio.
Declan Devine made just the one change from his side that was beaten 2-0 by Shamrock Rovers just two days previous as James Akintunde came in for Darren Cole.
Despite having only pride to play for, the home side went close to taking the lead in the ninth minute but after some sloppy play from the Derry defence, McGlade blasted his shot over the bar when in space on the edge of the penalty area.
Knowing a win would secure top-flight football for next term, the Candystripes finally fashioned an opening moments later but after the ball fell to him outside the box, Adam Hammill sliced his half volley wide of the right post.
Cork thought they had broken the deadlock just shy of the quarter of an hour mark but, after Jake O’Brien stretched to turn Kevin O’Connor’s free-kick into the far bottom left corner, his celebrations were cut short as the linesman flagged for offside.
The Rebel Army needed Kevin O’Connor to be alert on the half-hour mark and he produced an excellent last-ditch block to turn Akintunde’s goalbound shot wide for a corner.
And just seconds later, Derry were inches away from edging in front but Conor Clifford was desperately unlucky to see his long-range effort crash against the inside of the far left upright before rolling clear to safety.
The visitors were now in charge of proceedings but they struggled to create meaningful goal-scoring opportunities as Ciaran Coll headed an Akintunde free well wide before the half time break while Walter Figueira saw a shot deflect wide at the beginning of the second period.
They were punished shortly before the hour as Cork City took the lead thanks to youngster Beineón O’Brien-Whitmarsh.
Gearóid Morrissey’s exquisite pass released the striker inside the area and from 12 yards he coolly drilled the ball across the goalkeeper and into the far bottom-right corner for his first senior goal with the club.
They ought to have doubled their advantage on 68 but after Dylan McGlade forced former City goalkeeper Peter Cherrie into losing possession outside his area, Cian Bargary could only send his effort over the open goal and into the Shed End.
That miss would come back to haunt the hosts as Derry levelled the scores with just 15 minutes remaining.
Adam Hammill skipped away from Jake O’Brien and after his dangerous cross from the left was headed into the air by Ronan Hurley, Oluwaseun Akintunde rose higher than Alec Byrne to nod the ball into the bottom-left corner from close range.
Conor McCormack went close to netting the winner against his former side in the closing stages of normal time but he could only sidefoot the ball wide of the far post after good work again by Hammill.
The final chance of the game fell to Cork in injury time but Cian Coleman couldn’t ensure they ended their Premier Division dreadful 2020 season on a high as he drilled the ball into the side netting from close range.
CORK CITY: Mark McNulty; Henry Ochieng, Jake O'Brien, Kevin O’Connor, Ronan Hurley; Alec Byrne, Cian Coleman, Gearóid Morrissey; Dylan McGlade (Dale Holland 83), Cian Bargary, Beineón O’Brien-Whitmarsh (Cian Murphy 83).
DERRY CITY: Peter Cherrie; Jack Malone, Eoin Toal, Cameron McJannet, Ciaran Coll; Conor McCormack, Conor Clifford, Joe Thomson (Gerardo Bruna 55); Adam Hammill, Walter Figueira (Ciaron Harkin 81), Oluwaseun Akintunde.
Referee: Sean Grant.