The hosts led by 1-9 to 0-5 at half-time and were in no way flattered by that seven-point advantage. In fact they shot nine wides in that period of dominance.
And even though they tired in the final quarter, they will rue two missed goal chances in the second half.
Nickie Quaid made a smart save from Neil Foyle before the otherwise excellent John Purcell failed to find his outstanding team-mate, Tommy Fitzgerald with a simple hand-pass on the edge of the square.
To give Limerick credit, they improved significantly in the second half. Even allowing for the wind, the Shannonsiders were out-battled in that opening period.
Donal O’Grady came on at half-time to add workrate to Limerick’s cause. Dowling was introduced 10 minutes later after Conor Allis had missed his third free and the Na Piarsaigh marksman’s accuracy from placed balls helped Limerick into the lead for the very first time in the game.
“We created a couple of half-goal chances early on and didn’t take them and they kind of grew in confidence a bit,” said Limerick joint manager, TJ Ryan.
“Maybe we didn’t get the pace of the game up where we wanted to but Laois played quite well at the start of the game.
“There’s plenty determination and plenty character in this team. The second half performance was good. To go away from home and win by four, I’ll take it.”
Laois came out on top in the physical exchanges in the first half and it was winning another 50-50 challenge around the middle that set up the move that ended with Fitzgerald’s 25th-minute goal.
Limerick scored four of the first five second-half points but when the Purcell brothers, Paddy and John, responded at the other end, the margin was still six with 20 minutes remaining.
Seamus Plunkett’s men started to run out of puff in the final quarter and the margin was down to one when Dowling pounced on a rebound after Graeme Mulcahy’s shot had been blocked to strike the vital goal.
Further points from David Reidy and Dowling (free) cemented the win.
Scorers for Limerick: S Dowling 1-3(0-3fs); D Reidy, C Allis (2fs) 0-3 each; J Ryan, P Browne, T Condon 0-2 each; W McNamara, G Mulcahy 0-1 each
Scorers for Laois: T Fitzgerald 1-1; J Purcell, W Hyland 0-3 each; M Whelan, S Maher 0-2(fs) each; D Palmer, P Purcell 0-1 each
LIMERICK: N Quaid, S Walsh, P O’Loughlin, T Condon, P O’Brien, W McNamara, D Morrissey, C King, P Browne, C Allis, J Ryan, D Reidy, G Mulcahy, K Downes, M Ryan. Subs: D O’Grady for Walsh (ht), S Dowling for Allis (45), S Tobin for M Ryan (66), D Hannon for Mulcahy (68)
LAOIS: E Reilly, D Maher, B Campion, B Stapleton, J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, T Delaney, P Purcell, D Palmer, N Foyle, J Purcell, W Hyland, S Maher, T Fitzgerald, R King.
Subs: C Dunne for Delaney (47), PJ Scully for Foyle (59), P Whelan for P Purcell (62), J Campion for King (63), B Reddin for Palmer inj (70)
Referee: A Kelly (Galway).