Patience was the key for Shamrock Rovers at Hunky Dorys Park last night as two second-half goals gave them victory over Drogheda United, and a three-point lead at the top of the Airtricity League Premier Division table.
Goals from Gary Twigg and Billy Dennehy took Rovers clear after their main title rivals -- St Pats and Bohemians -- suffered shock defeats.
Michael O'Neill's men were far from at their best, but their cool heads paid dividends as they finally unlocked a dogged Drogheda defence and plunged the Boynesiders into serious danger of automatic relegation.
Even the late sending-off of Robert Bayly didn't take the gloss off Rovers' win as seven yellows and a red were handed out in the final 20 minutes.
The Hoops started well, Gary Twigg sent a near-post volley just wide from a James Chambers corner on three minutes.
Stephen Bradley had a sight of goal in the ninth minute but couldn't trouble Robert Duggan in the Rovers goal.
Drogheda fashioned another rare opportunity when some good one-touch passing ended with a cross from Peter McMahon and Paul Crowley looped a long-range header just over.
Rovers struggled to prise open the Drogheda defence for a 20-minute spell, but on the stroke of half-time Aidan Price glanced a header narrowly wide of the goal.
It was more of the same in the second half as the Hoops pinned Drogheda back in their own half, and on 49 minutes Paddy Kavanagh unleashed a 20-yard piledriver which was fisted over the bar by Duggan.
The home side enjoyed a good spell around the hour mark as John Flood tested Alan Mannus -- but then the Hoops struck twice in the space of four minutes to wrap up victory.
First, Twigg was on hand to steer in Dennehy's cross from close range in the 68th minute, and then Dennehy got on the scoresheet himself when the ball broke to him 12 yards out.
After that Rovers were on easy street, even when Bayly got his marching orders on 84 minutes for two bookable offences in quick succession.