Goals by Shane Dowling and Pat Ryan in the second half of extra-time sent Limerick to their first All-Ireland final in 11 years in front of an enthralled 71,073 crowd.
For Cork, it was a third successive All-Ireland semi-final defeat, despite being six points up with eight minutes of normal time remaining.
Dowling found the net with a penalty after he was fouled by Mark Ellis, which sent Limerick four clear, and Ryan added the icing on the cake when he lobbed Anthony Nash. A late Patrick Horgan goal from a long-range free was only consolation.
Losing Seamus Harnedy and the superb Darragh Fitzgibbon to injuries, Cork trailed Limerick 1-30 to 1-29 at the turnaround of extra-time. Dowling remained influential, setting up Aaron Gillane for a goal chance which he blazed over, winning a free and scoring a point. Patrick Horgan’s two frees were Cork’s only scores of that 13 minutes.
It was tit-for-tat in the opening stages of normal time, Cork going ahead three times inside the first six minutes but never going more than one ahead and they were pulled back each time.
Three Limerick scores in a row gave them a two-point lead by the eighth minute and they were again two up in the 15th minute as the Cork half-back line were given no end of grief.
By the 17th minute, Cork had the umpires waving wide for a seventh of 10 times in the opening half although they did pick off three points on the bounce, the last of them a fine one from Mark Coleman from distance in the 20th minute.
It was Cork’s turn to go two up in the 25th minute when Christopher Joyce was set up by Harnedy although Horgan spurned a chance for them to go three up when he sent a free wide a minute later.
Aaron Gillane, who had earlier kicked a ball over the bar after catching the ball above Colm Spillane, lost him again in the 29th minute but kicked the ball well wide. However, Graeme Mulcahy came to life soon after and fired over three of the next four scores.
A Mark Coleman sideline cut gave Cork a two-point lead in the 35th minute but Dan Morrissey cut the margin to one seconds later and it was Limerick who led at the break, 1-12 to 0-14, Cian Lynch put through by Seamus Flanagan although there were suspicions of fouls by him and Tom Morrissey in the build-up to the score.
Conor Lehane, so quiet in the first half, was a marvel in the second half and has two points to his name in that period before the 53rd minute when he ghosted behind Dan Morrissey who failed to field an Anthony Nash puck-out and soloed before belting the ball to the roof of the net.
The score sent Cork five ahead and they twice went six points ahead in the next nine minutes. But a 64th minute Aaron Gillane free was the first of seven Limerick points without answer. Four of them were Gillane frees and Dowling was making a major impression from the bench.
With the sides level, Harnedy looked a cert to find the net in additional time but Nickie Quaid performed an exquisite tackle to dispossess him and the ball went down the other end where Pat Ryan was fouled by Damien Cahalane and Gillane obliged with the free only for Diarmuid Byrnes to illegitimately impeded Lehane and Horgan sent the match into overtime, 1-27 apiece.
Scorers for Limerick: A. Gillane (0-13, 7 frees); S. Dowling (1-4, 1-0 pen, 0-1 free); G. Mulcahy (0-4); C. Lynch (1-1); G. Hegarty (0-3); P. Ryan (1-0); D. O’Donovan, D. Byrnes (free), S. Flanagan, T. Morrissey, K. Hayes, B. Nash, D. Reidy (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork: P. Horgan (1-11, 1-9 frees); C. Lehane (1-3); D. Fitzgibbon (0-4); D. Kearney, S. Kingston (0-3 each); S. Harnedy, M. Coleman (1 sideline) (0-2 each); C. Joyce, L. Meade, J. O’Connor (0-1 each).
LIMERICK: N. Quaid; S Finn, M. Casey, R. English; D. Byrnes, D. Hannon (c), D. Morrissey; D. O’Donovan, C. Lynch; K. Hayes, G. Hegarty, T. Morrissey; A. Gillane, S. Flanagan, G. Mulcahy. Subs for Limerick: P. Casey for T. Morrissey (51); S. Dowling for S. Flanagan (57); P. Ryan for G. Mulcahy (63); W. O’Donoghue for D. O’Donovan (70+1); S. Hickey for D. Byrnes (77); B. Nash for A. Gillane (inj 84).
CORK: A. Nash; S. O’Donoghue, D. Cahalane, C. Spillane; M. Coleman, E. Cadogan, C. Joyce; B. Cooper, D. Fitzgibbon; L. Meade, S. Harnedy (c), D. Kearney; S. Kingston, C. Lehane. P. Horgan. Subs for Cork: R. O’Flynn for S. Kingston (55); M. Ellis for D. Kearney (inj 60); T. O’Mahony for L. Meade (65); M. Cahalane for E. Cadogan (70+1); D. Kearney for M. Cahalane (e-t); M. Cahalane for S. Harnedy (inj 77); S. Kingston for D. Fitzgibbon (inj 78); J. O’Connor for D. Kearney (85).
Referee: P. O’Dwyer (Carlow).