THIS was a game which turned on a decision that handed the momentum to Derry City. With a killer instinct, they seized the opportunity to continue their impressive start to the new campaign.
Declan Devine's men were a goal down and toiling when referee Neil Doyle awarded a first-half penalty after Mark Rossiter was adjudged to have barged into Michael Rafter. Rory Patterson stuck away the spot kick and later slotted another as the visitors grabbed hold of the game .
With six wins from their opening eight games, the Foylesiders look in good shape and are leading the pursuit of Sligo Rovers. Dundalk, on the other hand, are still searching for a first home victory. The locals had come from two goals down to grab a point in their previous two Oriel Park outings, and were clearly determined to burst from the blocks quicker.
They dominated the opening 20 minutes, with their narrow midfield four tidier in possession, while also mixing it up by occasionally going direct towards their front pair, Vinny Faherty and Kurtis Byrne. The latter should really have opened the scoring when a clever flick from Keith Ward played him into space but his effort flashed wide.
Ward is a fan of the artificial surface, believing that it suits his trickery and he was the stand-out player in the first half. Unsurprisingly, he was prominent in Dundalk's deserved opener, a sure-fire goal of the month contender.
After a flowing move worked the Dubliner into space outside the area, he shaped to shoot before changing tack and executing a superb through-ball to Faherty. The Galwegian took aim and stylishly found the top corner.
Derry were struggling to gain a foothold in the game and moved ex-Lilywhite Rafter into a central role in a bid to gain more joy just before the contentious Patterson equaliser.
The break galvanised Derry, who raised their intensity in the second half and claimed the lead before the hour mark. Barry McNamee, a highly regarded young prospect who is expected to go across the water, instigated a one-two with Patterson on the edge of the box and emphatically smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
Stephen Kenny responded by introducing Darren Meenan to give width, but Derry continued to press high up the park and they could have put the game to bed when Barry Molloy raced clear and forced Peter Cherrie into a smart stop. Meenan then called Ger Doherty into action, yet it was only brief respite for the home side and they duly suffered the killer blow when a Molloy shot was blocked by the hand of John Sullivan.
There were less complaints this time around, and the result was the same with Patterson finding his target.
Dundalk were back to the familiarity of comeback mode and they were aided by another dubious decision with Shane McEleney given a straight red for halting Tiernan Mulvenna's progress on goal. After that, Devine's men had to soak up some pressure although they could have won a third penalty when Simon Madden appeared to go down in the box but the foul was deemed to have taken place outside it.
Dundalk huffed and puffed thereafter but there would be no late drama this week. Their supporters still gave them a warm reception at the end, with Doyle cast as the villain of the piece.
Dundalk – Cherrie, Sullivan, Boyle, Rossiter (Hoban 76), Massey; Towell; Dillon, O'Donnell, Ward (Meenan 61); Faherty, Byrne (Mulvenna 72).
Derry City – Doherty, Madden, S McEleney, McBride, Crawley; Molloy, Higgins,McNamee; Kavanagh (Duffy 86), Patterson, Rafter (P McEleney 76).
Ref – N Doyle (Dublin).