A late goal from Philip Lowry broke Coleraine hearts and sealed a dramatic win for Linfield in a five-goal thriller at The Showgrounds.
Lowry scored with two minutes to go to finally kill off a spirited Bannsiders side, who deserved to take something from the game. Two Eoin Bradley goals, the second a spectacular overhead kick, looked to have given Oran Kearney’s men a share of the spoils.
But Ruairi Harkin’s first half penalty miss proved vital as the Blues snatched all three points.
Coleraine made a bright start and carved out a half chance with only 30 seconds gone as Eoin Bradley chased down a long ball, but his attempted lob sailed wide.
The visitors had a let off on 13 minutes as Paul Owens’ inswinging free kick evaded everyone before striking the far post with Tuffey well beaten.
Linfield responded with Billy Jo Burns drawing a good save out of Drummond from a long free kick, before Jamie Mulgrew fired just wide also from distance.
Aaron Burns almost put the Blues in front on 18 minutes but he was denied by an excellent save by Drummond who got back across his goal to claw the ball off the line.
Ryan McIlmoyle was next to try his luck from distance after Linfield had only half cleared Owen’s cross just before the half hour mark, but the full back’s shot was always rising.
Back came Linfield as Aaron Burns weaved his way through the Coleraine defence, he was finally stopped but the ball popped out to Carvill whose lobbed effort clipped off the bar with Drummond stranded.
Coleraine spurned a golden opportunity to break the deadlock on 38 minutes after they were awarded a penalty. Eoin Bradley was upended in the box by BJ Burns, but Ruairi Harkin struck the post from 12 yards.
Three minutes later Linfield were awarded a spot kick as Ogilby fouled McAllister, up stepped Aaron Burns who fired the ball straight down the middle to put his side in front.
Linfield were piling on the pressure before the break and only a great save by Drummond on 45 minutes stopped BJ Burns making it 2-0.
Coleraine drew level on 54 minutes as Bradley coolly finished Owens’ dangerous free kick. Owens was proving to be a real threat and he almost fired his team in front on 64 minutes, his volley though clipped the outside of the post.
Within three minutes the visitors were back in front as McAllister picked up on a poor defensive header before rattling in a powerful shot for his 50th in a Linfield shirt.
McAllister drew another good save out of Drummond on 78 minutes as he surged through on goal, but the keeper stood up well to beat the powerful effort away.
With eight minutes to go Coleraine drew level and it was that man Bradley again as he spectacularly fired in an overhead kick following a knock down by Ogilby.
It wasn’t over just yet though as Philip Lowry benefited from a lucky flick on by Waterworth before slotting home from close range.
Coleraine: Drummond, Canning, McIlmoyle (Watt 46), Ogilby, Douglas, Moore (Carson 62), Hegarty, Harkin (Jennings 70), Tommons, Owens, E Bradley.
Subs: Browne, McMullan.
Goals: Bradley (54, 82)
Bookings: Bradley (58), Douglas (66), Hegarty (80)
Linfield: Tuffey, BJ Burns, A Burns, McVey, Ward, Carvill (Tipton 86), Clarke, Mulgrew, Lowry, McAllister, Waterworth.
Subs: Knowles, Ross Glendinning, Reece Glendinning, McCaul.
Goals: A Burns (41), McAllister (67), Lowry (88)
Bookings: Carvill (38), Clarke (75), McVey (81)
Referee: Tim Marshall
Photograph by Derek Simpson. www.sportfile.co.uk