PETE MAHON hailed the character of his players as they kept up the chase on league leaders Shamrock Rovers with another late, late show last night.
In the final minute of the Saints' league game away to Sporting Fingal Pats were being held to a 2-2 draw, and combined with events in the other Premier Division games -- Rovers winning comfortably at home to UCD and Bohemians leading away to Drogheda United -- Pats would have dropped into third place and gone seven points behind the Hoops.
But midfielder Derek Doyle popped up in injury time to score his seventh goal of the season, giving Pats the win and ending a six-game unbeaten run for Liam Buckley's side which effectively kills off any faint hopes Fingal retained of staying in the title race.
"It was a great win for us and a real sign of our character. We have popped up with a lot of late goals this season and that one was late but it was a very important goal for us, we'll take it," said Mahon.
"It was a strange kind of game, there wasn't much in the first half. We were 1-0 down at half time but the first half had been very quiet, a bit like a boxing match.
"But we upped the tempo in the second half, the surface here at Morton Stadium is excellent and that suited us and the way we play. We got back into the game, took a 2-1 lead, they got another goal back and it was 2-2 going into the last minute. But then Derek came up with the goal and the win, we're delighted," added Mahon.
Pats, seeking their first league title since 1999, put their championship ambitions on hold for a week now as they prepare for Friday's FAI Cup battle with non-league side Belgrove -- Mahon's former club -- as the Saints attempt to bridge the 49-year gap since their last FAI Cup final win.
Their next league test is away to Galway United but then comes a massive Dublin derby against leaders Rovers on September 10.
Shaun Williams put Liam Buckley's side in the driving seat before Vinny Faherty and Dave McAllister gave the Saints control. It looked as if Conan Byrne had sealed a point for Fingal until Doyle's late winner.
After a scrappy opening, Fingal produced the game's first bit of quality in the 29th minute when Gary O'Neill played a one-two with Ronan Finn but failed to hit a vicious enough strike to beat keeper Gary Rogers.
Three minutes later Williams unleashed a powerful strike from 30 yards but Rogers got his body behind the ball and dealt comfortably with the shot.
It was a different story in the 38th minute when Williams broke the deadlock with a blistering strike from 12 yards out after Shane Guthrie slipped clearing a John Frost cross.
The second half started tentatively and the first incident after the break was a 51st-minute Williams header that found the net but was ruled out for a foul on the keeper.
Seven minutes later Ryan Guy teed up Gareth O'Connor for a shot but the midfielder blazed over from a tight angle.
St Pat's duly levelled on the hour when Faherty turned the ball home from a matter of yards after Ian Bermingham's cross from the left.
It got better for the visitors when Dave McAllister put them in front three minutes later after firing to the roof of the net after a rapid counter-attack.
Gary O'Neill fired in a long-range effort to test Rogers in the 73rd minute but again the visiting keeper did well.
Byrne fired Fingal level in the 76th minute when he slotted past Rogers from a tight angle after a brilliant ball played in behind Bermingham by O'Neill.
Just when it looked as if the Saints would have to settle for a draw, McAllister delivered a stunning cross from the right and Doyle headed home at the back post for a last-gasp winner.