Sligo Rovers were extremely unfortunate not to take at least a point from their trip to Cork on Monday night. A determined Bit O'Red went 1-0 up through a great strike from Kieran Sadlier but were pegged back by the league leaders almost instantly courtesy of a Steven Beattie goal.
Dave Robertson's outfit fought to the end but were foiled by a Sean Maguire winner.
The Rebels were well on top in the opening half but couldn't crack a committed Sligo defence.
The Munster men named three ex-Rovers players in their starting eleven with Beattie, Maguire and Jimmy Keohane all lining out against their former employers.
Both Maguire and Keohane were involved in the opening chance on five minutes. Maguire did well to keep Kevin O'Connor's searching ball up the left in play. Under close scrutiny from Sligo's Mick Leahy, Maguire found Keohane who dragged the ball back to Garry Buckley at the edge of the area. Buckley pulling his low effort just wide of the far post.
City came into this tie as the league's joint top scorers and showed their intent to add to that haul during a busy first half.
Sheppard ballooned his effort from distance before a lapse in concentration saw Rovers' Chris Kenny surrender possession in the middle 21 minutes in. The ball eventually falling to Beattie who saw his powerful drive beaten away by a strong hand from the alert Shaun Patton between the Sligo sticks.
Maguire was involved again one minute later but saw his stab at goal blocked away by a sea of Sligo legs. While City captain John Dunleavy mis-judged his header in front of a gaping goalmouth moments later.
The chances kept coming. O'Connor's tantalising cross from a set-piece from the right invited anybody to take a touch and tuck it past Patton. No taker was willing however as the ball crept wide.
Rovers fired a warning shot eleven minutes from the break. Jonah Ayunga looked as if he had over-complicated matters as he struggled to keep hold of the ball on a Rovers counter. However a wonderful touch took the Brighton loanee past the befuddled O'Connor before he forced Mark McNulty into a fine save to divert the ball over his crossbar.
McNulty, on his record breaking 120th consecutive start for the Leesiders was called into action again just after the re-start. The net minder pushing Kieran Sadlier's 20-yarder over his bar.
Maguire was denied once more just past the hour mark just before Rovers hit the front.
Dunleavy's poor control saw Sadlier pounce at the edge of the area. The former Ireland underage international gauged the angle before calmly slotting the ball past McNulty for his second goal in as many games.
Rovers' celebrations were cut short instantly.
From the re-start, O'Connor's long ball was headed into the path of Beattie by substitute and fourth ex-Sligo man Achille Campion. Beattie made no mistake as he blasted past Patton from 15 yards to level the game.
It got better for Cork 12 minutes later.
Garry Buckley's speculative long ball picked out the animated Maguire. The striker breaking free of the last man and taking a touch before hammering the ball home for his sixth in six games running back to last year's FAI Cup final.
Dave Robertson's side pushed in vain for a leveler but it was the home side who came within a lick of paint of extending the lead. Substitute Connor Ellis unlucky to see his effort from the angle come back off the top of the near post.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Conor McCormack, John Dunleavy, Ryan Delaney, Kevin O'Connor; Greg Bolger (Achille Campion 52), Jimmy Keohane, Garry Buckley; Karl Sheppard (Shane Griffin 84), Sean Maguire (Connor Ellis 91), Steven Beattie.
Sligo Rovers: Shaun Patton, Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, Mick Leahy, Gary Boylan, Liam Martin; Kieran Sadlier, Craig Roddan, Chris Kenny (Mikey Place 84), John Russell (Daniel Kearns 92); Raffaele Cretaro, Jonah Ayunga (Mathew Stevens 84).
Referee: Sean Grant.