Cool Sean Gannon finish helps Dundalk stretch lead on Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers 0 Dundalk 1
If playing poorly but winning is the mark of champions, then there can be little to stop Dundalk from going on to retain their Premier Division title after they came through the Siege of Tallaght to land a big blow on their main rivals for the crown.
A goal on 73 minutes for Dundalk away to Shamrock Rovers, scored by Dubliner and former Rovers player Sean Gannon, was the key moment in this absorbing game, the win allowing Dundalk move eight points clear of second-placed Rovers.
The fact that Dundalk could have been at least 2-0 down, and a man down, by the time Gannon scored will be of no consolation to the Rovers camp as long spells of utter domination from them could not lead to a goal.
Rovers will argue that Dundalk keeper Gary Rogers should have been dismissed for a tackle outside the box which took Trevor Clarke out of the game as he bore down on goal, ref Robert Harvey awarding a free kick with no more than a yellow card for Rogers when home fans screamed for red.
That was one bit of fortune to go Dundalk's way, another was the sight of a shot from Jack Byrne striking the crossbar when he had Rogers beaten, and for Rovers, this was a missed chance in the title race as Dundalk will scarcely play as poorly again.
Both camps maintained that his was not a season-defining fixture but it was tense stuff, three bookings in the first 25 minutes alone.
Trevor Clarke and Jack Byrne were the source of most of the threats to the Dundalk goal, but it required patience.
It took until the 37th minute for the Rovers pressure to lead to a real threat on goal. Dan Carr's ball found its way to Ronan Finn and while the shot from the ex-Dundalk player appeared to have former team-mate Gary Rogers beaten, left back Dane Massey leaped in to clear for a corner.
A minute later Rovers almost went in front, Byrne with a well-struck shot which had Rogers beaten but it came off the crossbar.
On 61 minutes came that pivotal moment, when Rogers fouled Clarke after he had outpaced Gartland, but the red card stayed in the referee's pocket and Rovers could not make the free kick count.
Dundalk finally found their feet and had their goal on 73 minutes, the chance sparked by a brilliant header from Patrick McEleney, sub Jamie McGrath laid the ball off to Gannon and his shot slid over the line.
That set up a thrilling final 10 minutes, Mannus saving from Patrick Hoban while Rovers, with sub Brandon Kavanagh influential, sought the equaliser which just could not come, despite four minutes of added time.
Celebrations at the final whistle from the away support in the crowd of 5,015 belied the relief in the away camp that they had come to Tallaght and got the win needed to extend that lead to eighth points, a big night in the title race.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannus; O'Brien, Lopes, Grace, Clarke; Bolger, Watts (B Kavanagh 77); Finn, Byrne, S Kavanagh; Carr (Greene 72).
DUNDALK: Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Hoare, Massey; Shields; Mountney (Benson 78), Murray (McGrath 64), McEleney, Duffy; Hoban (G Kelly 85).
Referee: Robert Harvey