Ballymena United recorded a fourth straight Danske Bank Premiership victory with a win which condemned Institute to relegation.
The Sky Blues claimed their fourth win in four outings against the north west side in a low-key encounter at Drumahoe to strengthen their claims for finishing in seventh position in the championship.
United had penalty appeals waved away inside the opening two minutes as referee Stephen Taylor adjudged that Graeme Crown had fouled Gary Thompson right on the edge of the penalty area.
From the resultant free kick, Tony Kane tapped the ball to David Cushley who fired a rising shot inches over the crossbar.
After a stop-start opening 20 minutes, in which both sides struggled to get to grips with a bobbly playing surface, United almost took the lead in freakish fashion on 23 minutes.
Alan Teggart’s inswinging corner was met with a firm clearing header by Aaron Walsh but the ball cannoned straight off the head of United’ Johnny Taylor, only to fall straight into the arms of Stute keeper Corey Wilson.
Then Jim Ervin found himself in the unusual position of being the furthest Ballymena player forward and his 20-yard snap-shot bounced awkwardly in front of Wilson, but no United player was able to take advantage of the keeper’s fumble.
As Ballymena began to put together a spell of pressure, Wilson fumbled a loose ball under an aerial challenge from Darren Boyce but the young keeper recovered well to re-claim the subsequent loose ball at the feet of Teggart.
Ballymena went in front on 41 minutes from the penalty spot after referee Taylor adjudged that Allan Jenkins had been hauled down as he attempted to get on the end of Tony Kane’s corner.
Alan Teggart confidently tucked home the resultant spot kick - keeping up the unusual statistic of United having converted a penalty in each of their four league games against Institute this season.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Institute levelled with virtually the last action of the first half.
Matty Young provided the cross from the left which was met with a bullet header by Stephen Curry which beat the outstretched arm of Tim Allen and ended up in the net via the inside of the post.
Ballymena went back in front five minutes into the second period when Darren Boyce crossed from the left and Stute defender Mark Forker, under pressure from Allan Jenkins, appeared to get the final touch as the ball ended up in the net.
Institute tried to get back into the game immediately and Jim Ervin had to be alert to head behind with Mark Scoltock looming behind him.
Michael McCrudden’s clever touch then put in Stephen Curry but his shot from an acute angle was beaten out by Allen.
And the north west side should have levelled on 62 minutes when McCrudden’s free kick from the bye-line was met with a free header by Dean Curry but he could only steer his effort against the inside of the post.
At the other end, Tony Kane’s fierce free kick was beaten out by Wilson as far as Tipton but the striker was adjudged offside as he netted the rebound.
Manager Glenn Ferguson threw on teenage striker Matthew Shevlin and he matched onto a Gary Thompson pass only to be denied by keeper Wilson, while the striker then blazed over from the resultant loose ball.
Shevlin was put clear with seven minutes left but as the ball dropped to him, he could only volley wide of the near post and the 17-year-old’s afternoon came to a premature end as he hobbled off just before the end as Ballymena finished the game with 10 men.
Institute: Wilson, McLaughlin, Scoltock (sub McIntyre 59), D. Curry, Crown, A Walsh, Forker (sub D Walsh 59), Young (sub Burke 88), S. Curry, McCrudden, Hume. Subs (not used): Bradley, McKeever.
Ballymena United: Allen, Kane, Taylor, Ervin, McBride, Thompson (sub Surgenor 83), Jenkins, Cushley (sub McAllister 71), Teggart, Tipton (sub Shevlin 74), Boyce. Subs (not used): McVey, Surgenor, Gawley.
Referee: Stephen Taylor (Warrenpoint)