Just when they needed it most, Dungannon delivered their first win in six games to give some sustenance to their increasingly jittery campaign which is now solely focused on moving away from the Division One trap door.
As with ‘Gannon’s last positive result, against fellow relegation-battlers Young Munster back in
December, these vital four points were found away from home with two John McGuckin penalties – his second three minutes from time – earning his side the narrowest of winning margins, 6-5, at Old Belvedere.
John Andrews’ squad are now six points ahead of one from bottom Young Munster – who managed a losing bonus point at Garryowen – with three more games to play, though Munsters have a game in hand.
Dungannon have their efforts of their pack to thank for Saturday’s result with Thomas Anderson and Derek Hall putting in an impressive amount of work while Ulster’s Fijian winger Timoci Nagusa made some dangerous runs on his club debut.
Ballymena failed to tap into any of Dungannon’s good fortune as they fell by a solitary point, 7-6, to play-off-chasing Shannon at a rain and wind-lashed Eaton Park.
Two Craig Woods penalties was all the Braidmen could muster after Shannon had taken the lead from Richie Mullane’s converted try.
The losing bonus point at least keeps Ballymena in ninth spot, but with a three game run-in against Garryowen, Clontarf and Cork Constitution that may scupper their hopes of bagging a top eight finish.
In Division Two, bottom side Instonians’ deepening troubles continue after they lost the derby clash at Shaws Bridge 25-23 to Malone, a late try from Simon Bailie giving the visitors the win.
The losing bonus point was scant consolation to Clem Boyd’s squad who had battled back from 13-20 to lead 23-20. They are now five points adrift of safety with only three games remaining.
Elsewhere, Ballynahinch kept up their push for promotion with a 23-13 home win over Dublin University, and Belfast Harlequins lost 16-8 to Highfield at Deramore.