Daniel Kelly’s fifth goal of the season, along with a welcome clean sheet, was enough to secure Dundalk a hard-fought win over Sligo Rovers at Oriel Park.
The visitors missed a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring in the ninth minute when Stefan Radosavljevic’s cross found Pedro Martelo at the back post but he somehow missed the target with the goal at his mercy.
They were punished less than 60 seconds later when Kelly showed how it was done, the winger pulling to the back post to rise high and head home Archie Davies’s cross after a well-worked move by Stephen O’Donnell’s side.
Things became extremely scrappy after that and it was Sligo who had the best of the chances before the break with Radosavljevic curling one just over the crossbar from a difficult angle on the left before David Cawley’s deflected effort was held by Nathan Shepperd.
John Russell made a double substitution on the hour, bringing Karl O’Sullivan and Fabrice Hartmann into the fray and the latter almost caught Shepperd out with a smart free-kick four minutes later.
Russell and his bench saw their claims for a penalty waved away in the 69th minute when Frank Liivak went down under pressure from Dundalk substitute Johannes Yli-Kokko and Martelo let fly with a half volley on the turn that Shepperd did well to collect as the home support endured a nervy ending to the game.
Yli-Kokko almost settled them down when he broke clear and angled a shot towards the far corner that Walsh got across to save but after five minutes of stoppage time, and a last-gasp Kailin Barlow effort that forced a save from Shepperd, the final whistle blew to give Dundalk an important victory that pushes them closer to the top four.
DUNDALK FC: Nathan Shepperd; Archie Davies, Darren Brownlie, Louie Annesley, Hayden Muller (Darragh Leahy 70); Connor Malley, Greg Sloggett (Alfie Lewis 83); Daniel Kelly, Daryl Horgan (Johannes Yli-Kokko 67), Ryan O’Kane; Patrick Hoban (John Martin 83). Subs not used: Andy Boyle, Cameron Elliott, Paul Doyle, Sam Durrant, Peter Cherrie (GK).
SLIGO ROVERS: Conor Walsh; Frank Liivak, John Mahon, Nando Pijnaker, Niall Morahan; Lukas Browning (Kailin Barlow 74), Greg Bolger (Reece Hutchinson 74); Johan Brannefalk (Fabrice Hartmann 59), David Cawley (Karl O’Sullivan 59), Stefan Radosavljevic; Pedro Martelo. Subs not used: John Vahey (GK), James Finnerty, Bridel Bosakani, Conor Campbell, Daire Patton.
REFEREE: Adriano Reale. ATTENDANCE: 1,947.