Sean Hoare's last-minute Hoare fluke keeps Dundalk at the summit
Dundalk 1 St Patrick's Athletic 0
The devastation of the St Patrick's Athletic players sprawled in the penalty area like fallen soldiers told its own story.
For 90 minutes, Harry Kenny's side succeeded in frustrating the champions at Oriel Park and the point would have been well earned.
Dundalk had been flat by their standards, but the visitors kept their main attacking players relatively quiet and used their experience to run down the clock.
They would have expected the late wave of pressure that came their way, and looked to have succeeded in negotiating it until their good work was undone in remarkable circumstances.
In a messy scramble after a Dundalk corner, an attempted Dave Webster clearance rebounded off ex-Saint Sean Hoare and flew past the helpless Brendan Clarke into the top corner.
For the second time in the space of four days - they struck in the 95th minute to down Bohemians on Monday - Dundalk had produced a late show to stay at the summit.
It was a tough one to take for Saints boss Kenny, especially given the fact that his team came into this match with a 24-hour preparation disadvantage.
He went with the same XI that prevailed over Derry City on Tuesday, whereas Dundalk made four switches from the side that left it very late against Bohs.
The first half was notable only for the complete absence of any real entertainment.
St Patrick's Athletic were sturdy, and actually created the best opportunity when Mikey Drennan header over from Simon Madden's cross.
In general play they were disciplined and Dundalk struggled to pull them out of shape. For long passages, it was just quite laboured.
There's a strong argument for believing that fixture congestion eventually chips away at the quality of matches and this drab affair could be put forward to support the argument.
The champions resumed for the second half with much more purpose, with the ineffective Sean Murray replaced by Jordan Flores at the break.
English midfielder Flores lifted the tempo of their passing and Dundalk started to threaten with Dean Jarvis squandering a good chance.
Kenny's charges regrouped, however, with their three-man rearguard efficient. The impressive young centre-half Ciaran Kelly excelled in a battle with Patrick Hoban.
Michael Duffy was kept quiet, although his movement still posed questions.
Dundalk boss Vinny Perth mixed things up by introducing Georgie Kelly as a second striker, a tactic that worked in the Bohs match, and the strength of his bench was evidenced by Daniel Kelly's late cameo that presented the Saints defence with another test and the corner count stacked up.
Eventually, Dundalk's pressure did pay off, but this was a tale of luck rather than inspiration.
Dundalk - Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Hoare, Jarvis; Shields; Mountney (G Kelly 71), Murray (Flores 45), McEleney (D Kelly 88), Duffy; Hoban
St Patrick's Athletic - Clarke; Webster, Kelly, Toner; Madden, Markey, Lennon, McCabe, Bermingham; Drennan, Shaw (Walker 85)
Ref - P McLaughlin (Donegal)