Connacht crashed to a dismal defeat at Rodney Parade as Newport Gwent Dragons dealt with difficult conditions with superiority.
Dan Parks handed Connacht an early lead in south Wales, but things quickly unravelled for Eric Elwood's men as the Dragons took control. Tom Prydie kept the scoreboard slowly ticking over but it was Pat Leach's try late in the opening half that proved the ultimate difference.
The Galway outfit went into the clash on the back of their 18-3 victory over Treviso two weeks ago and they came up against a side in desperate need of a victory. Dragons slipped to a record seventh straight defeat, at the hands of Northampton Saints in the LV Cup last Sunday and had just five days to prepare for this crucial Pro12 encounter.
Connacht recorded the double over the Dragons last season and went into the clash with added confidence thanks to the return of captain Gavin Duffy to the starting line-up. Duffy had been sidelined with a hamstring injury since September, but returned to lead his side after making a try-scoring cameo against Treviso.
Parks booted the visitors into the lead within five minutes but the game quickly deteriorated into a slog-fest in difficult conditions.
Errors dominated, but the Dragons hit back shortly before the half-hour mark.
Robbie Henshaw was clattered by Will Harries and Jason Harris-White was shown yellow for interfering at the breakdown. Tom Prydie slotted the simple penalty and Connacht found themselves in deep trouble when Daniel Browne joined the hooker in the sin-bin.
The hosts quickly capitalised on their numerical advantage and eventually worked an overlap on the left to let Leach slide over. Prydie was off-target from the touchline but the try left Connacht trailing 8-3 at the interval.
Connacht were further behind as Prydie slotted his second penalty within minutes of the restart and he completed his hat-trick on 52 minutes as they pulled away.
Dragons – T Prydie; W Harries, P Leach, A Smith (J Dixon 40), T Chavhanga; D Evans, W Evans (J Evans 65); P Price(O Evans 80), H Gustafson (S Jones 65), D Way (N Buck 55); A Jones, R Sidoli (I Nimmo 76); L Evans (capt), N Cudd, T Brown.
Connacht – R Henshaw; T O'Halloran, D Poolman, D McSharry, G Duffy (capt); D Parks, K Marmion (D Moore 76); D Buckley (Ah You 65) , J Harris-Wright, N White (R Loughney 66); M Swift, M Kearney; A Browne, W Faloon, E McKeon.
Ref – G Vivarini (Italy).