Willow Park took a big step towards promotion to intermediate football with a home win against fellow promotion chasers Collinstown last night.
Willow currently play their football in the top junior division of the Leinster Senior League.
But a second promotion on the trot since the club left the local Combined Counties Football League would see Willow Park become the first Athlone side since St Mary's in the 1980s to feature in the Leinster Senior League's intermediate ranks.
The 3-0 home win against a Collinstown side which finished the game with eight players on Tuesday night means Declan Holohan's charges require a point in their final league game of the season against their main rivals for a promotion spot, St Francis, in Athlone on Saturday night.
The three points against the highly-rated Collinstown, who won the Leinster Junior Cup last season, was a big boost for Willow's promotion aspirations.
Collinstown probably had more possession in a closely-contested opening half but both keepers were called into action to ensure the scoreline was blank at the interval.
Willow broke the deadlock just past the hour mark when Aaron O'Neill jinked past a defender on the left and crossed for Benny Magennis to finish acrobatically off the underside of the crossbar.
Collinstown were then reduced to ten men when a defender received a second yellow card.
And Willow seemed to have the perfect opportunity to extend their advantage when awarded a penalty after O'Neill was clipped when racing onto a through ball.
However, the referee, after consultation with his assistant, reversed the penalty decision and opted instead to give a free kick on the edge of the box which came to nought.
Soon after, another second yellow for a visiting player really gave Willow the initiative.
And Magennis added a second with less than 15 minutes remaining after a free-flowing Willow move.
The Dubliners' discipline had disintegrated at this stage and with tackles flying in, another Collinstown player was dismissed in the final minutes, again for a second bookable offence.
Willow wrapped up the win in injury time when Magennis and Glen Byrne combined and the latter's cross was finished from close range by Robbie Forde.
Best for Willow Park in a crucial win were the energetic Garry McHugh and Magennis, while keeper Dylan McGoey and Mark Nicholson also played important parts.
With three teams to be promoted to the Leinster Senior League Senior 1B Division, there's an exciting end of season ahead.
Key remaining fixtures (22-game season)
Collinstown v Kilbarrack, Friday, May 18; Willow Park v St Francis, Saturday, May 19; St Francis v Kilbarrack (date to be confirmed)