Maurice Nugent's last-minute header was enough to earn ten-man Galway United a point as they held Cork City to a 1-1 draw on John Caulfield’s return to Turner’s Cross on Friday evening.
Jack Baxter’s stunning volley - his first goal for the club - looked to have won it for City but Nugent’s late finish from close range proved to be enough to snatch a share of the spoils for Galway, who had Stephen Walsh sent off before half-time.
Colin Healy stuck with the same 3-5-2 that helped his side earn a scoreless draw away to league leaders UCD last time out although he did make two personnel changes with captain Geariód Morrissey and Beineón O'Brien replacing the injured Alec Byrne and Jack Walsh, who dropped to the bench.
The home side started confidently and they threatened to take the lead inside the opening minutes but the lively Cian Bargary fired low at goalkeeper Conor Kearns following a quick counter-attack.
City were dealt a blow moments later though as Ronan Hurley was forced to withdraw with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, providing Dylan McGlade the chance to make an impression.
The Leesiders’ best move in the first half came on the quarter of an hour mark. Gearóid Morrissey pressed and reclaimed possession high up the pitch.
Beineón O’Brien-Whitmarsh soon took over and teed up Cian Murphy inside the area but the forward dragged his shot wide of the far bottom left corner.
Similar to his counterpart, Galway manager John Caulfield also made two changes following last week’s narrow 1-0 victory over bottom club Wexford.
David Hurley was awarded for his match-winning finish as he and Mikey Place came in for Shane Duggan and Mikie Rowe, both of whom had to settle for a place on the bench.
Caulfield was making his first return to the Turner’s Cross dugouts since leaving City - the club he managed to a league and FAI Cup triumph - back in 2019.
It wasn’t until midway through the first period that they created their first opportunity and it almost resulted in the first goal of the game.
Gary Boylan’s cross from the right flank found Mikey Place in space inside the penalty area but his volley was well saved at his far bottom left corner by goalkeeper Mark McNulty.
David Hurley twice went close as the interval approached but after blasting over former City skipper Conor McCormack’s short free, he saw an effort from the edge of the box deflect just wide of the left post with McNulty beaten.
But the visitors were then dealt a huge blow shortly before the half-time break as left back Stephen Walsh was shown a straight red card for an off-the-ball incident while his assistant manager Johnny Glynn was also dismissed for his protestations.
Despite the man disadvantage, United still remained in control of proceedings and they created the best chances at the beginning of the second 45.
Padraic Cunningham was unfortunate to see an attempt deflect narrowly wide before Place’s swerving strike from distance needed saving by McNulty. Sandwiched in between those near misses Carlton Ubaezunou thought he had broken the deadlock but his celebrations were cut short as the linesman flagged for offside.
The encounter became scrappy as the minutes ticked on although Dylan McGlade almost provided a spark with a quarter of an hour remaining but he blasted Cian Coleman’s knockdown over before his long-range hit whistled wide of the right post.
But City midfielder Jack Baxter would do better with his volley with ten minutes to go as he expertly controlled his shot and drilled the ball into the bottom right corner of the net in front of an empty Shed End.
It looked like it would be the winner but City would concede an equaliser and their first goal in four games when Maurice Nugent stopped to head into the far corner from close range in the 90th minute.
Elsewhere Athlone Town stayed third after a 2-1 win over Cobh Ramblers. Killian Cooper put Ramblers ahead on 15 minutes but Derek Daly and James Doona struck in the last 20 minutes to turn it around.
Bray Wanderers won 1-0 at Wexford, Joe Doyle's effort two minutes before the break proving decisive.
Shelbourne stretched their lead at the top to five points as they beat second-placed UCD 3-1.
Ross Wilson John and Ryan Brennan scored on 22 and 24 minutes for Shels, and though Harvey O'Brien plled one back in the 41st minute, Ryan Brennan netted just before the break to keep the hosts in control.
Cabinteely got past Treaty United 2-1 in the night's other game.
Kieran Waters broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time. Sean McSweeney levelled for Treaty three minutes into the second period but Vilius Labutis' goal 90 seconds later settled it.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Gordon Walker, Jonas Hakkinen, Ronan Hurley (Dylan McGlade 10); Darragh Crowley, Gearoid Morrissey, Cian Coleman, Jack Baxter, Cian Bargary; Cian Murphy (Jack Walsh 80), Beineón O’Brien-Whitmarsh.
Galway United: Conor Kearns; Gary Boylan, Maurice Nugent, Killian Brouder, Stephen Walsh; Conor McCormack, David Hurley; Ruairi Keating, Mikey Place, Carlton Ubaezuonu; Padraic Cunningham (Wilson Waweru 73).
Referee: Alan Carey.