Ballymena United 2, Dungannon Swifts 1
GARY THOMPSON pounced late to clinch victory for Ballymena United against Dungannon Swifts at the Showgrounds.
The midfielder turned the ball in from close range three minutes from the end to secure a second successive league win for the Sky Blues.
And the vital win moved David Jeffrey's side four points clear of Swifts in seventh spot as they followed up on last week's superb victory over Linfield.
United had taken the lead in the game through a Jonathan McMurray header four minutes before the break.However Swifts deservedly hit back on 52 minutes through skipper, Ryan Harpur's close range header.
And Thompson netted the winner after Cathair Friel's header hit the post as United stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to six games.
The Sky Blues had been denied a ninth minute lead from Leroy Miller's corner kick as Friel powered his close range header off the crossbar before Swifts cleared the danger.
United worked the ball back in and Tony Kane attempted a speculative overhead kick from the edge of area which found its was safely into hands of Andrew Coleman.
Millar's set-pieces were causing all sorts of problems for Swifts and from a free-kick on 19 minutes the ball was cleared into the path of Conor McCloskey but he volleyed over the bar.
Dungannon were gifted a decent chance on 28 minutes when Kofi Balmer's loose clearance went straight to Ryan Mayse who screwed his first time shot harmlessly wide.
The Sky Blues came close to taking the lead when McMurray was sent through and he cut inside with a neat turn but his strike from 18 yards was tipped over the bar by Coleman.
From the resultant corner kick Cahair Friel headed over from Kane's cross as United increased the pressure.
Swifts striker, Peter Mahon's clever flick over the top of the United defence found Mayse in space but he volleyed high over the bar.
With three minutes remaining in the first half Kane's inswinging free-kick from wide on the right was flicked towards the back post where McMurray rose to head home from five yards.
It was a deserved lead for the Braidmen and they could so easily have doubled that lead in first stoppage time as Thompson found McMurray after a quick break but the striker shot wide of the target.
The home side made a bright start to the second half as McMurray raced through on goal but Coleman was quickly off his line to make a superb block at the striker's feet.
However, Swifts were back on terms on 52 minutes when Cormac Burke's sublime cross from the left wing was met by the head of Harpur who nodded it past Ross Glendinning from close range.
The visitors enjoyed a dominant spell after the goal and came close to taking the lead with 10 minutes to go.
Substitute, Tommy Lockhart's cross found its way to Johnny Lafferty, who was lurking at the back post, but his shot rebounded back off the foot of the post.
The ball fell kindly to Mayse 12 yards from goal but his low strike was deflected clear as United survived.
With two minutes left on the clock it was United who found the winner when Friel's header from a corner struck the inside of the post and Thompson was on hand to turn it into the net.
Ballymena United - R. Glendinning; J. Ervin, K. Balmer, E. Friars, S. McCullough; C. McCloskey (M. Shevlin 85), G. Thompson, T. Kane, L. Miller (F. McCaffrey 27); J. McMurray, C. Friel; Subs Not Used - K. Owens, M. Gault, J. McKinney.
Dungannon Swifts - A. Coleman; K. Lowe, S. Clucas, L. McMenamin, A. Teggart (R. Campbell 90); J. Lafferty (T. Fitzpatrick 85), R. Harpur, D. Wilson, C. Burke (T. Lockhart 75); R. Mayse; P. McMahon; Subs Not Used - S. Addis, C. Coyle.
Referee - S. Gregg.