Dungannon and Buccaneers shared out eight tries before the Tyrone side emerged as 28-25 victors in Saturday’s Ulster Bank League clash at Stevenson Park.
This Division 1B duel went ahead at the third attempt, following two postponements earlier in the season. There was very little between the sides, who showed great movement and willingness to attack, and it took a 77th minute try from full-back Conor Gaston to swing it for Dungannon.
Buccaneers ventured north trying to arrest their recent poor form which saw them lose to UCC, UL Bohemians and Connacht rivals Galwegians.
For their part, Dungannon got back to winning ways at home to Bruff last weekend and were looking for another victory to move away from the relegation battle.
Buccaneers broke into a 10-0 lead after the first quarter with scrum half Adam Kennedy kicking a second minute penalty and flanker Eoin Rooney helping himself to a converted try.
With Dungannon's Aaron Fry in the sin-bin, the hosts came under increased pressure. Chris Cochrane and Rowan Halsall combined to stop a certain try, but Buccs used the extra man to send Rooney over in the 20th minute, with Kennedy converting.
Dungannon got their back-line into the game and Gaston threatened on the counter attack, before player-coach Kieran Campbell created an opening for winger Michael Lawton who touched down and converted in the 25th minute.
A penalty from Lawton, five minutes later, tied up the game for half-time at 10-10. Buccaneers tried to hit back before the break, grabbing the best of the territory, but they could not penetrate Dungannon's committed defence.
The lead changed on a number of occasions in a hotly-contested second half. Lawton nudged Justin Fitzpatrick's men in front with an early penalty.
Then, full-back John O'Brien, one of the best finishers in the league this season, scored Buccs' second try in the corner after some neat interplay between the backs. It was O'Brien's fifth try in six games.
The Pirates seemed to be gaining the upper hand when Connacht winger Shane Monahan added another try in the 55th minute, making it 20-13 to the visitors.
But by the 65-minute mark, Dungannon were back in front. They kept possession well and after a series of phases in the Buccs' 22, Gaston gained ground before passing for Ulster-capped back rower Ali Birch to score to the left of the posts.
A second unconverted effort followed as wing Cochrane did brilliantly to cut on a wide angle past three defenders and maintain his balance near the touchline as he charged over for a well-taken try – his fourth in five outings.
It was nip and tuck all the way and it was no surprise that Buccaneers crafted a quick response. In the 73rd minute, hooker and captain Garrett Halligan dived over from a close range ruck for a five-pointer.
That gave the visitors a 25-23 lead for the final few minutes. It was a shaky one as Dungannon's patient build-up, after Cochrane was held up just short of the line, was rewarded when the forwards retained possession and the ball was passed wide for Gaston to score.
This time there was no comeback from Buccs and Dungannon were back on the attack by the time referee Darragh McCormack blew for full-time.
The victory, which was marked by a man-of-the-match display from home hooker Adam Duhig, has moved Dungannon up to fifth place in the table ahead of the final two rounds of matches.
Referee: Darragh McCormack (IRFU)