After battling back from a goal down at half-time to turn things around, it looked like the home side’s hard work was going to be outdone when substitute Michael McSweeney pulled down Ruairi Keating in the box just four minutes from time.
However, City keeper McNulty dived to his right to save Danny North’s weak spot kick to keep his side on the tails of leaders Dundalk.
Afterwards, a thrilled Cork boss John Caulfield was full of praise for his battlers. “We weren’t at the tempo we wanted to be at in the first half and we were lucky to be only one down at half-time. We had a chat at half-time and I thought we were outstanding in the second half. We were under the cosh for the last 15 minutes and thankfully Nults made the save from the penalty.
“There’s tremendous character in this side, you have to admire my guys for the attitude they show. I’m thrilled with the three points that keeps the pressure on Dundalk and we’re now looking forward to next week’s game with Drogheda.”
City went into the game in buoyant mood after Sunday’s late 1-0 win in Limerick kept their title aspirations intact and Caulfield had Garry Buckley and Darren Dennehy returning from suspension.
Sligo’s caretaker manager Gavin Dykes could only name five substitutes due to his long list of absentees but he still had the luxury of fielding a strong starting XI.
After a slow opening, the game burst to life in the 9th minute when Paul O’Connor’s shot from the edge of the box took a big deflection, which McNulty did well to get a hand to and North’s follow up was blocked by Ross Gaynor.
City almost went in front a minute later when Mark O’Sullivan’s high ball caused confusion in the Sligo defence and Buckley rose unchallenged but his header came back off the crossbar.
Sligo looked threatening every time they ventured forward and North had another chance in the 16th minute when Darren Dennehy failed to deal with Cretaro’s cross, but the former St Pat’s man fired wide after a neat layoff from Eamon Zayed.
Zayed had an even better chance four minutes later when he was through on goal following a calamitous error from Dan Murray but Darren Dennehy’s tackle deflected the ball up and over McNulty and the ball came back off the crossbar.
David Cawley then came close twice in quick succession before Sligo went in front in the 31st minute when Danny Ledwith picked the ball up on the left side and with McNulty expecting a cross, the former UCD man struck a swerving left-footed effort from 30 yards which flew past the City keeper.
With the City defence looking extremely shaky, Zayed should have made it 2-0 five minutes later but he headed Gary Boylan’s long cross wide from six yards.
City must have got a right rollicking at half-time as they were an entirely different side in the second half and they were level in the 58th minute when substitute John O’Flynn flicked on Billy Dennehy’s cross for the alert O’Sullivan to toe poke past the hesitant Gary Rogers.
The City faithful were in full voice now as the players displayed the passion and energy that has brought them this far all season and the Shed End erupted five minutes later when Billy Dennehy got on the end of McNulty’s long kick out before arrowing a tremendous left footed shot which nestled in the right hand corner of Rogers’ net.
Sligo piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser, as the home side defended too deep, and would have got one near the end only for McNulty’s late intervention.
CORK CITY: McNulty; Dunleavy, D Dennehy, Murray, Gaynor; O’Shea (O’Flynn 54 (O’Leary 90)), Healy, G. Morrissey, Buckley (McSweeney 80), B. Dennehy; O’Sullivan.
SLIGO ROVERS: Rogers; Boylan, Peers, McMillan, Ledwith; North, O’Conor (Armstrong 64); Cawley, Conneely, Cretaro; Zayed (Keating 75).
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).