Shamrock Rovers claimed an important three points in the Airtricity Premier Division with a 2-0 win over UCD in the UCD Bowl tonight.

Goals from Gary Twigg in the sixth minute, and Gary McCabe (70) secured the win against the Students.

The result puts some added pressure on leaders Sligo Rovers and Drogheda United ahead of their crunch meeting in the Showgrounds on Saturday.

James Kavanagh, Tyrone McNelis and Chris Lyons came in for David O'Connor, Ciaran Nangle and Samir Belhout for the Students following their 1-0 loss against Drogheda last week.

The Hoops were unchangedm with new signing Tommy Stewart on the bench following his arrival on transfer deadline day.

After a sloping start, Rovers took the lead as Twigg received the ball from Daryl Kavanagh and he slotted home off the post to give Stephen Kenny's charges a platform to kick on and close the gap on the sides ahead of them in the table.

Rovers went close to doubling the lead just two minutes later when Twigg's backheel allowed McCabe the chance to shoot from 20 yards, but the winger sliced the ball off-target.

The goal did not lead to the champions taking a dominant grip on the game, as mis-placed passes and a static midfield allowed UCD to come into proceedings.

Lyons was proving difficult to handle for Colin Hawkins in particular, as the UCD man's pace and trickery led to a couple of openings.

Firstly, he turned the Hoops player/coach when approaching the danger area and dragged a shot wide of the goal, and he was again a threat on 23 minutes when Oscar Jansson had to dive for the ball after it broke in the area with the goalkeeper doing brilliantly to rid the danger.

UCD grew in confidence as the half went on, without creating many more moments of concern for Kenny.

Killian Brennan was introduced for the injured Chris Turner, with the Drogheda native hoping to make a better impression after a poor display against Ekranas in the away leg of the Champions League qualifier.

In the 34th minute UCD's Daniel Ledwith curled a free-kick into the arms of Jansson who read the set-piece well, as the former Tottenham man showed how he is improving with each outing in the Rovers goal.

The lead should have been doubled five minutes before the break when Twigg's flicked header gave McCabe room on the left wing.

The former Sligo and Shelbourne man crossed for Ronan Finn but he shot wide from eight yards to the annoyance of the Hoops fans.

The visitors had another wonderful opening early in the second period as a fine run by McCabe down the left saw Kavanagh receive the ball in a great position, yet he couldn't find the bottom corner from 15 yards.

Kenny introduced Tommy Stewart for Kavanagh moments later, looking for another goal to seal the victory.

David McMillan's dipping shot went just over the bar on 54 in a rare UCD attack but the Hoops were much stronger in second period and were in total control against the basement side.

The second goal arrived with 20 minutes to go as McCabe capped an excellent display with a great strike from outside of the area that left Mark McGinley helpless in the Students’ goal.

Rovers cruised through the rest of the game, with Stewart missing a glorious chance to get his name on the scoresheet as he headed wide from Finn's wonderful cross.

The result puts even more important on the Showgrounds clash tomorrow, as well as the visit of Ian Baraclough's side to Tallaght Stadium in the next league outing for Kenny's men.

UCD: Mark McGinley; Hugh Douglas, James Kavanagh, Michael Leahy, Daniel Ledwith, Paul Corry, Paul O’Conor, Robert Benson (Chris Burke, 78 mins), David McMillan; Tyrone McNelis (Sean Russell, 60), Chris Lyons (Dean Clarke, 71).

Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jannson; Pat Sullivan (Kerrea Gilbert, 78 mins), Colin Hawkins, Craig Sives, Conor Powell; Chris Turner (Killian Brennan, 31), Stephen Rice, Ronan Finn, Gary McCabe; Daryl Kavanagh (Thomas Stewart, 54), Gary Twigg.