Before kick off, the players and officials lined up around the centre-circle to lead the attendance – which included Ireland manager Martin O’Neill - in one minute’s applause for the late Ray Treacy, whose immortality at Shamrock Rovers was secured, first, by his FAI Cup winning penalty in 1978 and later by his stewardship of the side which won the league title in 1994,
The visitors had the better of the early exchanges, the game’s first shot on target a Daryl Horgan effort comfortably held by Roves ‘keeper Craig Hyland.
And the former Cork City man came much even closer in freakish circumstances in the twelfth minute, as his attempt at a high, looping cross deceived Hyland and came back off the crossbar.
A minute later, it was Rovers turn to threaten for the first time, Mikey Drennan’s header from a Simon Madden cross drifting just wide of the angle of crossbar and post with Gary Rogers a relieved onlooker in the Dundalk goal.
Back in the Rovers side, Gary McCabe was being his usual inventive self playing off the frontman, one drop of the shoulder followed by a 25 yard effort forcing Rogers to scramble across his goal as the ball whistled just wide of his far post.
With passes misplaced by both sides in what was an open contest, there was a growing sense that a mistake might lead to the breakthrough, and it nearly came just short of the half-hour mark when, after their dawdling defence was caught napping by Darren Meenan, Rovers had Hyland to thank for coming quickly off his line to block the Dundalk man’s effort.
But, with just a minute to go before the break, Rovers again hit self-destruct and this time with costly consequences, as David McMillan – epitomising Dundalk’s refusal to allow their opponents time on the ball - panicked Conor Kenna into surrendering possession before driving on beat Hyland.
And it got worse for the Hoops immediately after the break as, straight from the kick-off, Ronan Finn came back to haunt his old club by running on to a McMillan flick-on, holding off David Webster and finding the back of the net from an angle.
But in the 52nd minute, Rovers were thrown a lifeline when it was Dundalk’s turn to fumble at the back, an ill-advised attempt to let the ball run through to Rogers on the edge of his area, allowing Ryan Brennan to nip in. And when the ‘keeper brought him down, referee Neil Doyle immediately brandished the red card before Mikey Drennan made the visitors pay on the double by converting past substitute ‘keeper Gabriel Sava – on for Darren Meenan – from the resultant spot kick.
Suddenly, it was game on, and then, in the 60th minute, it was that man Drennan again, the in-from striker this time burying a screamer into the top corner to make it 2-2 as Dundalk buckled and Tallaght rocked.
But, to their credit, the ten men in all-black stood firm after that in the face of almost exclusively one-way green and white traffic, as Rovers fell just short of completing the comeback, Drennan blotting his copybook by missing an absolute sitter five minutes from the end. Tension boiled over in the dying minutes of time added on, coach Glen Cronin getting his marching orders from the Rovers dug-out as, out on the pitch, Hyland was forced into a save to deny Dundalk an improbable winner.
Hyland, Madden, Kenna, Webster, D O’ Connor, R Brennan, S O’ Connor (Miele 74), Cregg (North 80), McPhail, McCabe (Kieran Marty Walters 86), Drennan
Rogers, Gannon, Boyle, Gartland, Massey, Shiels, Towell, Meenan (Sava 54) Finn (Mountney 82), Horgan (O’ Donnell 70), McMillan
Neil Doyle (Dublin).