It looked as though Martin O’Neill’s men were set for their first defeat of the campaign after Toni Kroos’ long-range shot had given the home side the lead with 19 minutes to go in Gelsenkirchen.
But O’Shea, who is his country’s sixth international centurion, was on hand to flick the ball into the bottom corner of the net with the last kick of the game to salvage a point.
This means that Ireland are second in Group D, level with Poland on seven points (but having scored a goal less) and three points ahead of Germany.
Prior to his late heroics, O’Shea had been part of an Ireland defence that had fought valiantly for 70 minutes to repel a German team who were looking to bounce back from a defeat in Poland that had brought an end to their 19-game unbeaten run in competitive matches.
For much of the match they did just this, keeping their shape and restricting the home side the space they needed around the box to capitalise on their vastly superior possession.
Ireland’s cause was helped by a sluggish first-half display from a German side who are still adjusting to the post-World Cup retirements of Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose and missing Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Andre Schurrle through injury.
The traffic was all one way but largely came to a halt ahead of the 18-yard box as Mario Gotze and Julian Draxler struggled while Thomas Muller was far less influential than he had been during the World Cup in Brazil.
Saying that, they could easily have led at the break but for the crossbar denying Erik Durm’s somewhat speculative 40-yard effort, Antonio Rudiger heading wide when he should have hit the target from 10 yards out and David Forde saving well from a Draxler angled shot.
The home side came out with renewed vigour after the break, having sent on Lukas Podolski – one of only six substitutes named by Low.
Forde produced a superb save to palm over a Kroos shot, but he was powerless to prevent a low drive from the same player later in the half, which found the back of the net off the inside of the post.
Now needing to chase the game, Ireland sent on Hoolahan and he was presented with an excellent chance to snatch a point when he was found in the box by a low cross from James McClean but his goalbound effort was blocked by the sliding Durm.
With 90 minutes having elapsed, Ireland launched one last attack and, when Hoolahan’s over-hit cross was played back into the box by fellow substitute Jeff Hendrick, acting captain O’Shea was there with a neat finish to send the away fans into ecstacy.