Bluebell United maintained their four-point lead at the top of LSL Sunday Senior as they came from behind to beat Firhouse Clover in a west Dublin derby at Brickfield Park.
Aji Sule had given Firhouse a surprise early lead before goals in each half from Gary Seery and Shane Stritch turned the tie for Andy Noonan’s Bluebell.
The Bell received a boost two weeks ago when second-place Killester United were surprisingly beaten by Malahide, and took the chance to move four points clear.
Firhouse have had a quietly successful season of their own, safely ensconced in mid-table and into the semi-finals of the FAI Intermediate Cup, where they drew away to Letterkenny Rovers.
This game was moved from Firhouse’s usual home at Tallaght IT to the Brickfield astro in order to preserve the former for Sunday afternoon’s replay against Letterkenny.
Firhouse boss Keith Baker strengthened his squad in January with the addition of striker Aji Sule, the Citywest man signing back for the club from Newbridge Town.
There was barely a minute on the clock when Clover took the lead, and it was the returning Sule who broke the deadlock with his first strike back in green and white hoops.
Carl Forsyth played a through-ball for the striker, who curled a left-footed shot into the top corner from a narrow angle.
The former Bluebell man could have doubled his tally shortly afterwards and again Forsyth was the creator, crossing to the back post where Sule stretched to divert the ball onto the post.
The league leaders gradually took control of the game with frontman Stritch proving the focal point for Sean Byrne and Gary Seery to run off.
It was Seery who was credited with the equaliser when it did arrive, the striker working himself into space in the box and firing a shot past Firhouse keeper Ian Molloy.
Sule continued to threaten and Andy McNulty did well to deny the striker a second goal as half time approached.
The second half was a more even affair but it was the Bell who went in front with 20 minutes remaining when Stritch latched onto a long all and poked it past the outrushing Molloy.
Clover roared back and continued to press for an equaliser, with the Bell forced into ever-more-desperate defence in a bid to guard the three points.
Sule thought he’d found the equaliser close to the end when he caught a volley flush from the edge of the box and beat the keeper, but was once again denied by the woodwork.
The result leaves Bluebell four points clear at the top with a game in hand on Killester and well-placed to wrest back the league crown surrendered to St Mochta’s last May.
Firhouse face Letterkenny at IT Tallaght on Sunday, where they’ll be without the services of captain Darren Forsyth following his red card in the first leg, while Sule is cup-tied.
Noonan will take charge of a LSL selection, which includes Sule and ten Bluebell players, that face Scotland in the Graham Harkness Memorial Trophy next week.