Just moments from climbing to fifth in the table, City’s Kevin Murray, who was only on the field two minutes, conceded a spot-kick when he collided with Derek Pender in the area and referee Derek Tomney pointed to the spot. Ward blasted his effort into the top corner.
At the end of a game that saw the home team create the best chances, it will have felt like a cruel blow.
But there’s was no denying a spirited and youthful Bohs side deserved something from this game and they now turn their attentions to a Europa League qualifying round second leg tie with Iceland’s Thor Akureyri on Thursday evening.
Such is the imbalance in prize money in the domestic game, a win in Iceland would earn the Dubliners a return on par with winning the league. It was little surprise then that manager Aaron Callaghan made eight changes from their scoreless draw in the first leg last Thursday.
A frighteningly inexperienced Bohemians side, with an average age of just 22, showed a lack of defensive nous early on despite sticking with an increasingly popular 4-2-3-1 formation.
That the opening goal midway through the first half arrived through Daryl Horgan was no surprise, as the tricky winger created havoc when given far too much space throughout the game.
Indeed the strike came from the archetypal counter-attack as Bohs attacker Dwayne Wilson had sent a cross in from the right which Colin Healy headed back to home keeper Mark McNulty.
The ball was quickly worked to Gearóid Morrissey and he found Horgan and the wide man raced down the left, cut in before sending a neat strike low to the net at the near post.
Although there were half chances at either end, Horgan went closest to a second prior to the interval with a swinging effort from the edge of the area that Andy McNulty did well to keep a hold of.
Bohs worked hard and enjoyed a larger share of the ball but Cork continued to create the better chances, Davin O’Neill hitting the roof of the net with a lob that had Andy McNulty beaten, while Vinny Sullivan and Horgan also went close to extending the deficit.
Gearóid Morrissey and Danny Murphy both scuffed wide as City attempted to turn the screw but they were dealt a blow when Morrissey and fellow midfielder John Dunleavy limped off injured in the space of two minutes.
Horgan tried his luck again following another lightning quick break only to scoop just wide with 76 minutes played but City sat too far back as the game wore on and in the end it proved costly as Ward grabbed a point for his side.
Cork City: M McNulty; Healy, Spillane (K Murray 88), Kavanagh, Murphy; Morrissey (Turner 71), Dunleavy (N Horgan 73), Duggan, D Horgan; O’Neill, Sullivan.
Bohemians: A McNulty; Pender, Lopez, Feely, Barker; Traynor, Joyce (Ward 78); Wilson (Mulligan 60), Martin, Moore (O’Connor 68); Scully.
Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin).