Sligo Rovers' Europa Conference League campaign came to an end at the Showgrounds after a gallant Bit O’Red display saw them beat Viking on the night, but exit on aggregate.

5-1 down from the first leg, the Irish side put on an impressive display and were ahead at the break courtesy of a deflected Will Fitzgerald strike.

Rovers did create several opportunities to further close the gap, but unable to follow up on Fitzgerald’s opener with Frank Liivak’s 74th minute penalty saved by Viking goalkeeper Patrik Gunnarsson.

The Norwegians now progress to face Romanian side FCSB in the play-off, while Sligo face into a crucial league tie with St Patrick’s Athletic in Dublin this Sunday.

Facing what seemed to be the insurmountable, Rovers’ task was made even more difficult with the loss of top scorer Aidan Keena who picked up a knock in Sunday’s league win over Bohemians.

Replacing the Mullingar man was Max Mata, with Adam McDonnell and Lewis Banks also returning. While loanee Robbie Burton was given his first start since joining from Dinamo Zagreb.

Viking, who drew with fellow Eliteserian side Sandefjord at the weekend, kept faith with the majority of the team who started the first leg in Stavanger, with striker Mai Traore replacing Daniel Karlsbakk, their only change.

Despite their disadvantage from that opening leg, Rovers did not look like the side chasing the tie as Viking went the duration of the first half without a shot at goal.

Banks laced an effort across the face of Patrik Gunnarsson’s goal straight away. While Liivak’s flick from a Greg Bolger corner had an off balance Gunnarsson struggling to bat away his improvised effort eight minutes in.

Paddy Kirk, right, goes on the attack for Sligo Rovers

Kiwi Mata went close with two headers, the best of these coming in the 18th minute when a deflected cross landed on the head of the striker, but Gunnarsson steadied himself in time to claim the ball.

The League of Ireland outfit had a penalty call waved away on 28 minutes. But a sell-out crowd of 3,879 was on its feet 60 seconds from the break as Rovers hit the lead.

McDonnell made a mess of his initial volley before Fitzgerald ran on to the ball. The Limerick native’s drive from out wide taking a wicked deflection off Bjorshol as the ball looped over Gunnarsson and into the opposite corner of the goal.

Sligo skipper Greg Bolger wasn’t miles off when he fired narrowly over on 54 minutes after Mata had laid off possession to the former Shamrock Rovers general 20 yards from goal.

Substitute Kailin Barlow then had the stadium at a stand-still on 64 when his dipping volley floated over Gunnarsson’s crossbar. Gunnarsson left open-mouthed as the audacious effort landed behind his goal.

Viking’s Viljar Vevatne crashed a header into the Sligo side netting mid-way through the second half as Rovers continued to shut out the Scandinavians.

John Russell’s side were then left deflated in the 74th minute when Gunnarsson kept out both Liivak’s spot-kick and Banks’ follow up after the Estonian was tripped by Vevatne at the end line.

Sligo Rovers: Luke McNicholas; Lewis Banks, Nando Pijnaker, Shane Blaney, Paddy Kirk; Adam McDonnell (Kailin Barlow 61), Greg Bolger (Niall Morahan 54), Robbie Burton; Will Fitzgerald (Karl O’Sullivan 78), Frank Liivak; Max Mata (Cillian Heaney 78).

Viking: Patrik Gunnarsson; Sondre Bjorshol, David Brekalo (Kris Lokberg 78), Viljar Vevante, Shayne Pattynama; Samuel Fridjonsson, Markus Solbakken, Harald Tangen (Fredrik Torsteinbo 83); Kevin Kabran (Niklas Sandberg 61), Zlatko Tripic (Edwin Austbo 78), Mai Traore (Daniel Karlsbakk HT).

Referee: Novak Simovic.