Controversial goal gives Dundalk breathing space at the top
Bohemians 1 - Dundalk 2
If Dundalk are going to retain their league title, they need to get points on the board before the impact of fixture congestion really kicks in. This was a big win for Stephen Kenny's side.
They were value for the three points and, on the balance of play, Bohemians could have no arguments about the outcome.
But the nature of Dundalk's decisive second goal did rile the locals in Phibsborough and ensured that the champions left the pitch to a chorus of boos from the Dublin 7 regulars.
The outrage emanated from a disagreement between the teams over the aftermath of a break in play due to an injury suffered by Bohs centre-half Dan Byrne.
Dundalk were in possession at the time, but referee Jim McKell dropped the ball at the feet of their striker Dave McMillan, with Bohs seemingly anticipating that he would knock it back towards his defence.
It didn't make it that far, with Stephen O'Donnell taking possession in the centre of the park and driving towards the Bohs box. The home side weren't expecting it and Derek Prendergast hacked down the Dundalk skipper.
After a lengthy disagreement, Bohs' frustration grew when John Mountney's long-range shot took a deflection off Roberto Lopes and trickled past Shane Supple.
At full time, it was that goal which separated the sides and restored Dundalk's four-point lead at the top of the table.
It should add a spice to their one remaining meeting this term.
Dundalk were ahead at the break in an encounter that was brought forward from October to help ease their backlog and they had earned that advantage with a dominant first-half showing.
Bohemians missed the presence of Ismahil Akinade up front as he has terrorised the Lilywhites in previous meetings, and they lacked that outlet to get them out of trouble when the visitors applied pressure.
The Louth side were always that half a yard quicker and it was apparent in the build-up to the opener when sloppiness from Bohs led to an interception from Mountney, who instigated a break that culminated with Gypsies right-full Dylan Hayes needlessly swiping the ball behind.
Mountney's corner was gratefully received by Brian Gartland, whose volley flew past Shane Supple and into the roof of the net. Gartland was selected ahead of Paddy Barrett and his ability to score from set-pieces is a major asset.
In truth, Dundalk should have gone in with a bigger lead. McMillan could have scored twice from rebounds that fell in his direction; before the breakthrough he fired wide when a Dane Massey free came back off the woodwork.
He was later thwarted by Supple, with the ex-Ipswich keeper denying Patrick McEleney's long range attempt and then reacting well to block the close-range follow-up.
Long pushed Dean O'Halloran forward after the restart to support Kurtis Byrne but they were struggling to impose before Mountney's contentious goal.
But Dundalk couldn't relax as the sense of injustice galvanised Bohs and they immediately halved the deficit, with ex-Dundalk man Byrne executing a stunning volley from a corner that fell his way.
Bohs went in search of a leveller and finished the game strongly. Their best chance to nick a point fell to Byrne whose right-footer was inches wide of Gary Rogers' goal.
It enabled the Dundalk supporters behind it to celebrate at the final whistle, with Rogers flying to Serbia with the Ireland squad today before reporting back for the next league date in Sligo on Tuesday.
Bohemians - Supple, Hayes, Prendergast, D Byrne, Fitzgerald; Lopes, Buckley; Kavanagh, Wearen, O'Halloran (Kelly 61); K Byrne.
Dundalk - Rogers, Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; O'Donnell; Mountney (C O'Connor 83), Finn, McEleney (Shields 66), Horgan; McMillan (Shiels 87).
Ref - J McKell (Tipperary)