DUNDALK'S best 45 minutes of the season counted for nothing as three second-half goals from Sligo condemned them to defeat at The Showgrounds on Saturday.
Manager Seán Mccaffrey made two changes to the side that defeated UCD eight days earlier, as Dan Cunningham and Robert Waters came in to replace Nathan Murphy, who sat out following an operation on his toe, and Paul Walsh.
However, despite being massive underdogs going into the game, it was Dundalk who had the better chances throughout the first half. Their first shot on target came on 12 minutes when the highly-impressive Ben Mclaughlin cut in from the right and fired a low shot that Gary Rogers got down to save.
On the quarter-hour, Dundalk should have been in front, when O'neill latched onto a neat through-ball from Rafter, but with just the Sligo number 1 to beat he blazed over.
Before the half hour, Mcdonnell fired a free-kick over from 30 yards, before Derek Foran headed a Romauld Boco cross away, the ball eventually coming to Lee Lynch who caught his shot wrong, allowing Peter Cherrie to easily gather. Foran made two more crucial interventions as Sligo attempted to unlock the visiting defence, before Mclaughlin saw a cross blocked away after being fed by Liam Burns down the right.
The 16-year-old right-back then showed his defensive strength as he dispossessed Iarfhlaith Davoren - who replaced Jason Mcguinness in the starting lineup just before kick-off - and
Joseph Ndo, after he had cleverly got past both Waters and Mcdonnell. The latter saw Mclaughlin feeding Rafter, who then dragged a shot wide from outside the box.
On 38 minutes, a great forward run by Foran saw him lay the ball off to Waters, who cut inside and won a free kick 30 yards from goal. However, Cunningham stood up and curled an effort high and wide of the target.
Dundalk then had another good chance to open the scoring as captain Chris Shields found Rafter who showed good control and strength to get past his man, before getting in at the byeline, but Danny Ventre recovered well to block, before Rogers smothered.
At the other end, Daniel North had a go from the edge of the box, but Cherrie got down to his left to make the save. Waters then attacked down the right and got a good cross in which Rafter did well to get on the end of but his header was saved on the line by Rogers, who gathered at the second attempt.
Sligo's only real chance of the first period came shortly after, when, after Mcdonnell conceded possession, Boco was put in the clear on the right, but he shot over from the edge of the area.
However, all Dundalk's good work was undone just four minutes into the second half, as Sligo hit the front. Cretaro, from the right, played the ball across the visitors' six-yard box, an effort which soon became a cross as it fell perfectly for North at the back post who could hardly miss.
Sligo's tails were lifted by that and they made it 2-0 on 54 minutes, as Ross Gaynor's corner was met powerfully by the head of Peers who found the top corner. Dundalk, though, should have been back in it before the hour mark when Rafter fed Mcdonnell in the box, but after teeing himself up he hit a tame effort which Rogers gathered.
At the other end, North broke on the right and his low delivery found Lynch, but he shot over from close range.
On 81 minutes, as they tried hard for a way back into the game, the Lilywhites almost got it as Cunningham laid the ball into the path of substitute Gareth Coughlan, but his shot was deflected narrowly over and behind for a corner.
In the closing minutes Cherrie stopped well from Keane, before the Bit O'red eventually did score again right on the 90 minutes, North tapping in after his initial effort came back off the post SLIGO ROVERS: Gary Rogers, Alan Keane (Martin Owen 90+3), Gavin Peers, Danny Ventre, Iarfhlaith Davoren, Romauld Boco, Lee Lynch, Joseph Ndo, Ross Gaynor (John Dillon 76), Raffaele Cretaro (Mark Mcgoldrick 90+1), Danny North. Subs not used: Ciarán Kelly, David Cawley, Liam Martin. Booked: None. DUNDALK: Peter Cherrie, Ben Mclaughlin, Liam Burns, Derek Foran, Dan Cunningham, Robert Waters (Peter Thomas 77), Chris Shields, Stephen Mcdonnell, John Mountney (Gareth Coughlan 70), Shane O'neill (Gary Shanahan 60), Michael Rafter. Subs not used: Ger Hanley, Cian Byrne, Chris Reilly, Garreth Brad Booked: S Mcdonnell (63), C Shields (64), G Coughlan (79). REFEREE: Paul Mclaughlin (Monaghan). ATTENDANCE: 2,586.