BALLYMENA United set up a County Antrim Shield final showdown with Linfield after a hard-fought win at the Showgrounds.
Second half goals from Alan Davidson and Gary Thompson took Glenn Ferguson’s side past the stubborn challenge of Donegal Celtic to secure United’s first appearance in a knockout final for six years.
It was an evenly-fought encounter for large parts, with Ballymena scoring twice inside a five-minute spell midway through the second period to settle the contest.
The result also maintained the Sky Blues’ impressive unbeaten record at the Warden Street venue, which now stretches back to February.
Both teams made a bright start with Shane Dolan heading narrowly wide from a Mark Miskimmin cross while at the other end, Ally Teggart’s burst was halted by a timely intervention from Eamon Hughes.
DC keeper John Connolly survived an anxious moment when he fumbled Ross Black’s deep free kick, but the visitors had enough bodies back to block Teggart’s shot.
The home side had penalty appeals waved away on 32 minutes when Jamie Davidson went down in the area after a tussle with Hughes but referee Hugh Carvill remained unmoved.
Ballymena almost went ahead in fortuitous circumstances eight minutes before the interval when Jamie Davidson’s cross from the left deflected off Peter McCann, forcing Connolly to react sharply to palm the ball around his near post.
Celtic also went close when McCann’s deep free kick from inside his own half was met by a looping header from Sean Cleary, the ball narrowly clearing Dwayne Nelson’s crossbar.
DC carved out a decent opening six minutes after the restart when Ciaran Gargin cut the ball back from the left to Shane Dolan, but under no challenge, the Dubliner screwed his shot wide of the target from 15 yards.
Jamie Davidson continued to threaten the visiting defence and after jinking away from Pat McShane, his curling shot was turned behind for a corner by Connolly.
But Uniteed eventually did go in front on 63 minutes. Followinmg a scramble in the DC penalty area, David Cushley teed up Alan Davidson, whose left foot shot found the bottom corner.
And the home side doubled their lead five minutes later. Teenage substitute James McCabe held the ball up in the channel before intelligently finding the in-rushing Gary Thompson, who stroked the ball into the bottom corner, via the outstretched hand of Connolly.
Davidson came close to adding a third when he curled a shot just wide of the far post from Tony Kane’s cut-back.
Ballymena United: Nelson, Kane, Munster (sub Ruddy 85), Stewart, Black, Taggart, Thompson, A Davidson, Cushley (sub Lowry 78), J Davidson (sub McCabe 61), Teggart. Subs (not used): Ruddy, Costello, Addis.
Donegal Celtic: Connolly, McCann, McShane, Burns, Hughes, Deans (sub McIlkenny 74), Downey, Cleary, Dolan, Miskimmin (sub McVeigh 62), Gargin. Subs: (not used): McNamee, Devine, Murphy.
Referee: Hugh Carvill (Belfast).
Man of the match: Gary Thompson (Ballymena United)