PATRICK Hoban's 74th-minute strike proved decisive in a disappointing Louth derby as Dundalk deservedly overcame fierce rivals Drogheda.
Hoban, who had a goal chalked off in the first half, finished past 'keeper Michael Schlingermann and the Lilywhites survived the late sending-off of John Mountney to take the points.
The game's most controversial moment came when Dundalk thought they had hit the front on 43 minutes when Hoban squeezed the ball in at the near post, only for the assistant referee to signal that the ball had gone out over the endline.
Stephen McDonnell saw an 18-yard shot for the visitors graze the outside of the post after the break, before Peter Cherrie produced an outstanding reaction save to block O'Neill's overhead effort.
Finally the deadlock was broken on 74 minutes when Drogheda's Brian Gannon coughed up possession in midfield to Tiarnan Mulvenna, who slipped the ball to Hoban, and the striker slotted past Schlingermann.
The game took another twist when Mountney was dismissed for a second booking on 83 minutes, as referee Alan Kelly decided he had gone down too easily in the box following an Alan Byrne challenge, but Dundalk held on for a valuable and well-deserved three points.
DROGHEDA UNITED – Schlingermann; Gannon, McNally, Byrne, Grimes; Brady (Rusk 78), O'Conor, R Brennan, Marks (G Brennan 61); Hynes (O'Neill 61), O'Brien.
DUNDALK –Cherrie; Rossiter, Shields, Boyle, Massey; Dillon (Osborne 86), McDonnell, Mountney, Towell, Ward (Mulvenna 55); Hoban (Faherty 90).
Ref – A Kelly (Cork)