Derry City had to make do with a share of the spoils after an entertaining and tense 0-0 draw with league champions Cork City at the Brandywell last night.
There was a fast-paced start from Derry, who forced two corners in the first three minutes, the last of which saw Nicky Low's near-post delivery met by Ronan Curtis, whose bullet header flew just wide of Mark McNulty's post.
Cork showed a threat of their own when Jimmy Keohane received the ball in space 25 yards from goal, but with Barry McNamee ahead of him, he opted for the shot from distance and it sailed harmlessly over.
Just before half-time, Rory Patterson had a great chance, and it was one he really should have taken, as Jack Doyle broke down the left. His low cross was right on the money but Patterson got his feet all wrong and the effort failed to test McNulty.
The game continued in the same vein in the second half with both teams well-matched, but Conor McDermott almost had the Candystripes fans on their feet when he drove towards the area from the right before drilling a shot across goal, which forced McNulty into his first save.
The game was beginning to open up for the first time and after McNulty came out of his area to intercept a pass meant for Curtis, the Cork goalkeeper could only send his clearance straight to the feet of Doyle. The Derry fans were screaming for the full-back to shoot towards the empty goal, but instead he tried to find Rory Hale and overhit his pass.
Cork had a great chance to win it with just nine minutes remaining when McDermott attempted to shepherd the ball out of play for a goal kick, but he was dispossessed by substitute Kieran Sadlier, who turned inside and drove in a shot which was crucially kept out by Gerard Doherty.
Derry hearts were in their mouths with five minutes remaining when it looked like Sadlier was about to score until a last-gasp block by McDermott. Still the danger remained and when the ball fell for Steven Beattie, it looked a certain goal only for a heroic block by Doyle.
Three minutes of added time had the Derry fans on their feet and Low came so close to becoming the hero as he drilled an effort which just deflected wide.
From the resulting corner, Aaron McEneff's curling effort eluded everyone, including McNulty - but hit the inside of the post and back into the goalkeeper's hands.
In a frantic finale, Beattie's effort was spilled by Doherty but Sean McLoughlin somehow couldn't finish it off.
Derry City: Doherty, McDermott (McDonagh 88), Cole, Toal, Doyle, McEneff, Low, Rory Hale, Curtis, Patterson (Boyle 83), Ronan Hale.
Cork City: McNulty, Bennett, Keohane, McCormack, Cummins (O'Hanlon 71), Sheppard (Beattie 79), Griffin, Horgan, McNamee (Sadlier 61), Buckley, McLoughlin. Man of the match: Eoin Toal
Referee: Paul McLaughlin