“The objective coming here was to keep the tie alive going back to Dublin next Thursday and we’ve achieved that,” said Buckley.
“Scoring two goals away from home was vital but we are gutted to concede the injury-time goal. I can’t fault the efforts of my players and we’ll be confident going into the second leg,” he added.
Goals from Glen Crowe and Lorcan Fitzgerald looked to have given Sporting a draw in a rollercoaster match.
But in the 95th minute, Danilo Dias whipped in a deep cross from the right and Brazilian striker Tcho swept the ball past Brendan Clarke.
Trailing to Crowe’s first-half lead, Maritimo made changes at the break and scored late on through Esteves and Cherrad.
But Sporting left-back Fitzgerald punished an 87th minute error to level before the cruel late twist.
Due to major renovations at Maritimo’s home ground, Estadio dos Barreiros, the game was played at the Estadio da Madeira, home of fierce local rivals CD Nacional.
In a spectacular setting, 600 metres up a mountain, the stadium touches the clouds in an almost surreal atmosphere — it will be back to reality in Dublin for the Portuguese.
CS MARITIMO: Pecanha; Esteves, Guilherme, Robson, Alonso; Marquinho (Dias, h/t), Sousa, Tcho, Djalma (Luciano, 74); Baba, Kanu (Cherrad, h/t).
SPORTING FINGAL: Clarke; O’Brien, Hawkins (Maher, 73), Browne, Fitzgerald; Finn, McFaul, Williams; Byrne (Cahill, 88 mins.), Crowe (Zayed, 64 mins.), Kirby.
Referee: Luc Wilmes (Luxembourg).