Jamie Mulgrew hit a spectacular last-gasp strike for Linfield last night as they remained at the top of their Setanta Sports Cup group.
The midfielder drilled home a free-kick from 20 yards in the final minute to deny St Pat a second victory over the Blues.
Despite a late siege on the visitor’s goal it looked as though David Jeffrey’s men were going to slip to third place, but Mulgrew provided a moment of magic to thrill the home fans.
St Pat’s would have had no fears ahead of their trip to Windsor Park after giving the Irish League champions a footballing lesson in the corresponding fixture in April, but the Blues almost made the perfect start when Michael Carvill latched on to a Mark Miskimmin ball from the left with his header landing inches wide of the far post.
The visitors were dealt a blow on 12 minutes when winger Bobby Ryan was forced off with what looked like a dislocated shoulder after an innocuous incident and Ryan Guy entered the fray.
Mark Quigley should have opened the scoring on 19 minutes when he was given the freedom of Windsor Park after Alan Mannus punched Stephen Brennan’s dangerous cross out to the edge of the box, but with more time than Quartz on his hands, he dragged his shot wide.
The visitors could have been made to pay minutes later but keeper Barry Ryan was equal to Winkie Murphy’s powerful header and Carvill’s long-range shot.
St Pat’s finally broke the deadlock five minutes before the break.
Quigley broke the off-side trap, much to Linfield’s surprise, and stood up a cross into the centre where the on-rushing Fahey powered a header past Mannus.
Glenn Ferguson wasted a chance to draw the Blues level two minutes into the second half when he blazed over after good work from Mulgrew.
A minute later Quigley teased the home backline before curling a left-foot strike just wide of goal.
On 51 minutes goal-scorer Fahey stung the hands of Mannus with a rasping long-range strike as St Pat’s threatened to double their lead.
Back came the Blues. Carvill went down under the challenge of Jamie Harris, but referee Mark Courtney waved away his claims for a spot-kick.
New signing Paul Munter was given his debut on 75 minutes as the Blues searched for an equaliser. Skipper Noel Bailie had a late strike saved by Ryan then Munster crashed a header off the bar before Winkie Murphy’s rebound effort was again saved by St Pat’s goalkeeper Ryan.
It was frantic stuff, but the Blues sensed an opening and Mulgrew’s strike in the final minute kept them level with Derry at the top of Group Two.
LINFIELD: Mannus, W Murphy, Hagan, Curran, Ferguson (Munster75), Carvill, Bailie, Burns, Lindsay (McAreavey 83), Miskimmin, Mulgrew. Subs: Addis, White, McAreavey.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Barry Ryan, Lynch, Harris, Paisley,Brennan, Fahey, Dempsey, Bobby Ryan (Guy 14), Kirby, Quigley, Fitzpatrick (J Murphy 77) (O’Brien 83). Subs: Friesz, O’Brien, Haverty, Bialek, O’Cearuill.
Referee: Mark Courtney (Dungannon)