Linfield stay in the hunt thanks to Mark Haughey's derby winner
Glentoran 1-2 Linfield
Big Mark Haughey kept Linfield's slim title hopes alive by grabbing a priceless winner in last night's Big Two showdown against Glentoran at the Oval.
Warren Feeney's boys are certainly not giving up on landing the Gibson Cup, even though they still trail Crusaders by six points - both teams have four games remaining.
The result puts a huge dent in Glentoran's aspirations of European qualification, but at least they still have the Irish Cup final down the line.
Things didn't look to healthy for the Blues when Fra McCaffrey shot Eddie Patterson's team into the lead. Linfield came out fighting in the second half and an Aaron Burns penalty had them level before Haughey struck 15 minutes from time.
With Curtis Allen and Stephen McAlorum out suspended and Barry Holland missing due to injury, Glentoran boss Patterson drafted in rookie striker Danny McKee and David Scullion.
Warren Feeney surprisingly reinstated a posse of his long-term injured, including Ivan Sproule, Peter Thompson and Haughey, while defender Glenn Belezika was given the nod after shaking off a hamstring problem.
It was the Blues who asked the early questions and they almost grabbed the lead on seven minutes when Stephen Lowry's free kick found the head of Burns, whose effort clipped the crossbar.
Burns then whipped in a cross from the left, which bounced off the boot of Kym Nelson to Andy Waterworth, but his drive lacked conviction and drifted wide.
Then on 16 minutes Waterworth robbed the dithering Willie Garrett and the big defender had his goalkeeper Elliott Morris to thank after he managed to get a hand to the striker's drive.
Linfield cut open the home defence seconds later with a slick one-touch movement involving Sproule and Burns, who sent Waterworth clear, but Garrett somehow managed to get back.
All of a sudden the home team sprung from the traps and they really should have been in front on 29 minutes when Nelson played a delicious pass into the path of David Scullion, who spooned over the top.
But the home fans were on their feet 60 seconds later with that McCaffrey strike. Stephen Gordon's delightful flick sent the midfielder hurtling clear and this time he buried the ball.
Linfield tried to respond. Sean Ward was flattened by a silly challenge by Calum Birney, but the usually lethal Matthew Clarke blasted the 20-yard free kick wildly over the top.
The visitors threatened again on 38 minutes when Burns' cross found the long-striding Waterworth at the back post, but he too was careless with his parting shot, which was fortunate to stay in the ground.
Tuffey was early in action after the break. Stewart's stinging drive stung the hands of the former Northern Ireland international after the diminutive midfielder latched on to a poor clearance from Stephen Lowry.
But the Blues were back on terms on 58 minutes.
Marcus Kane's clattering challenge sent Glenn Belezika tumbling and referee Colin Burns awarded the penalty. Burns held his nerve to send Morris the wrong way from the spot.
Glentoran had strong and loud appeals for a penalty 18 minutes from time when Gordon's cross appeared to hit the arm of Matthew Clarke, but this time the Comber official wasn't impressed.
But Clarke quickly swept to the other end to set up Linfield's second goal. His corner kick found the head of Haughey, whose header ballooned the net.
And, the Blues almost hit a killer third three minutes later. This time it was Burns who met a Lowry free kick, but Morris saved smartly.
Glentoran: Morris, Garrett, Kane, McCaffrey, Birney, Scullion, Stewart, Henderson, Gordon, Nelson (McCullough 81), McKee. Substitutions: McCullough (Nelson, 81 mins).
Linfield: Tuffey, Belezika, Haughey, Waterworth, Thompson, Lowry, Burns (Carvill 81), Ward, Clarke, Mulgrew, Sproule (Callacher 89).
Substitutions: Carvill (Burns, 81 mins), Callacher (Sproule, 89 mins).
Man of the match: Aaron Burns
Match rating: 7/10
Referee: Colin Burns (Comber)