This result and Drogheda United’s 5-3 away loss to Shamrock Rovers means that Martin Russell’s charges have a massive opportunity to maintain their top-flight status, after goals from Shane Duggan, Paul O’Conor and Vinny Faherty, as well as a terrific display from goalkeeper Freddy Hall, set up the much-needed result in Sligo.
Sligo, who made it 2-1 just before the break when Sander Puri scored, missed a first-half penalty when leading scorer Dinny Corcoran’s effort was thwarted by an in-form Hall.
A lethargic Sligo netted in added time when Ruairi Keating scored his first goal for the club to make for a nervous finish for the visitors.
Limerick came into the game bottom of the table, with 18 losses in 32 games, and to avoid automatic relegation and secure a place in the relegation/promotion play-off, they needed to beat Sligo and for Drogheda not to win in Tallaght.
The visitors, who had spent 200 days rooted to the Premier Division basement, were without midfielder Lee-J Lynch, once of Sligo, due to suspension.Sligo, whose safety was all but assured the previous week with a precious 2-0 away defeat of St Patrick’s Athletic, would only be in trouble with a combination of unlikely results, including a heavy loss to Limerick and Drogheda to pick up a massive away win at Tallaght Stadium.
The home side were without suspended defender Tim Clancy and midfield playmaker John Russell. Raffaele Cretaro, who recently passed the 500-mark for career appearances, started at full-back.
Sligo boss Micky Adams, who was heading into his 11th game in charge since his appointment as a relegation fire-fighter in August, again selected top scorer Dinny Corcoran, who courted controversy for his GAA appearances with St Patrick’s Donabate in the Dublin Intermediate Championship.
Limerick took a fifth minute lead to spark their survival hopes. A corner was played short and the ball was moved neatly along the front of the Sligo penalty area where unmarked team captain Shane Duggan swept a precise left-foot shot past Richard Brush.
In blustery conditions, Limerick were backed by the breeze and continued to threaten.
Ian Turner curled a wonderful 15th minute free-kick around the wall but Sligo goalkeeper Richard Brush dived low to keep the ball out and Paul O’Conor just missed the rebound.
A minute later Sligo missed a terrific opportunity to level but Dinny Corcoran’s poorly hit spot-kick was saved by Limerick net-minder Freddy Hall, who dived low to his right to smother the ball.
Corcoran almost made amends when his clever through ball almost sent Sander Puri on goal but Limerick kept the pressure on with a series of corners and attempts on goal, including a well-struck effort from Sean Russell, as Sligo defended nervously.
Limerick deservedly doubled their lead after 28 minutes through Paul O’Conor. Shane Tracy’s long-range strike came off the underside of the Sligo crossbar and former Sligo player O’Conor netted at the second attempt, after Brush parried O’Connor’s initial effort.
Freddy Hall came to Limerick’s rescue after 39 minutes when he denied Sander Puri’s goalbound shot after the Estonian international was set up by Dinny Corcoran’s clever assist.
Limerick almost scored a third in the 42nd minute but a shot from the excellent Ian Turner was cleared off the line by Danny Ledwith.
Sligo pulled a goal back in first-half added time when Sander Puri finished with a low shot after Keith Ward created the chance with a jinking run and delivery from the left flank.
When news filtered through of Shamrock Rovers’ equaliser against Drogheda United early in the second half, the 200 strong contingent of Limerick fans were in joyful mood, especially as their team held a 2-1 advantage.
Limerick, still the better side, went 3-1 up in the 58th minute with a close-range finish from Vinny Faherty after Shane Duggan and Dean Clarke created the chance.
Sligo cut the deficit in second-half added time when sub Ruairi Keating got on to Raffaele Cretaro’s cross but Limerick held on.
Brush; Cretaro, Peers, Keane, Ledwith; Myrie-Williams, Ward (Armstrong 68), Cawley, Puri; Nielsen (Elding 68), Corcoran (Keating 68)
Hall; Kelly, Williams, Kanyuka, Tracy; Duggan; Turner, O’Conor, Russell, Clarke (Guedje 88); Faherty (Mann 83)