Two goals from in-form striker Gary O’Neill proved decisive as a superior Drogheda United made hard work of defeating bottom club UCD 3-2 at Hunky Dorys Park.

O’Neill put Drogheda ahead on 21 minutes with a close-range finish and when Gavin Brennan volleyed the hosts 2-0 in front just after the half-hour they looked to be on their way.

Robbie Benson hit back for UCD on 38 minutes, only for O’Neill to strike again just after half-time.

More poor defending gifted the Students a lifeline on 67 minutes, with substitute Dean Clarke on target to make it 3-2, but Drogheda deservedly held out in the end.

Having beaten Sligo in midweek, Mick Cooke’s men had their tails up and dominated from the start, forcing four corners inside seven minute.

The Students were repeatedly pegged back and it was no surprise when they conceded the opening goal. Gavin Brennan collected a quick Shane Grimes throw and cut the ball back from the byeline for Gary O’Neill who had a simple tap-in.

And after more pressing from Drogheda they doubled their advantage when a corner kick was half-cleared to Gavin Brennan whose volley somehow trundled into the far corner of the net past a stranded Mark McGinley.

The Drogs defence looked rather shaky on the rare occasions when UCD escaped out of their own half, though, and the visitors profited from that uncertainty on 38 minutes when Benson fired past keeper Gabriel Sava from a cross by Sean Russell.

And two minutes later Sava badly fumbled a Russell shot and just managed to re-gather before the ball crossed the line.

On stroke of half-time O’Neill had a header tipped round the post by McGinley as Drogheda pushed for a third goal that their play deserved, but the striker didn’t have long to wait as he clinically finished off a counter-attack on 49 minutes after a great pass from Ryan Brennan.

Only for the brilliance of McGinley the provider would have got his name on the scoresheet on 54, and UCD responded by bringing on two subs, one of whom put the game back in the melting pot in the 67th minute.

David McMillan muscled Derek Prendergast off the ball and rolled it to Dean Clarke who slotted past Sava with ease.

Shane Grimes then had to make a goal-line clearance to prevent UCD hauling themselves level in the 76th minute, before Graham Rusk missed an opportunity to put the game to bed, firing wide with only McGinley to beat.

In the end Drogheda managed to hold out for a hard-earned three points.

DROGHEDA UNITED: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Alan McNally, Derek Prendergast, Shane Grimes; Graham Rusk (Michael Daly 82), David Cassidy, Paul O’Conor, Ryan Brennan, Gavin Brennan; Gary O’Neill.

UCD: Mark McGinley; Gareth Matthews (Dean Clarke 59), Mark Langtry, David O’Connor, Thomas Boyle; Robbie Creevy (Barry McCabe 78), Craig Walsh, Robbie Benson, Gary Burke (Hugh Douglas 59), Sean Russell; David McMillan.

Referee: Alan Kelly (Cork).