Dundalk drew level on points with Cork City at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division after a 1-0 victory over a poor Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium.
In a very disappointing opening 45 minutes, Dundalk played the better football but failed to capitalise on it.
Richie Towell came closest but Hoops goalkeeper Barry Murphy saved well.
It was much of the same in the second half until Patrick Hoban's 66th minute strike as Kurtis Byrne's cross was squeezed home past Murphy.
Towell almost got a second with 15 minutes remaining as Murphy got down well to save but Dundalk kept on to be triumphant.
Stephen Kenny's side may have had one eye on Thursday's Europa League clash with Hajduk Split, but after Eamon Zayed failed to connect with Simon Madden's first minute cross with an overhead kick, Dundalk took control.
They were one touch away from breaking the Rovers' defence as Patrick Hoban failed to connect with a Massey cross and Darren Meenan failed to control a Richie Towell pass.
In response Gary McCabe whipped in a free-kick that Jason McGuinness, who had earlier been booked, headed over while Ronan Finn failed to test Peter Cherrie in the Dundalk goal with a wayward effort from a tight angle.
Kurtis Byrne's control let him down after Massey looked to send him clear as Chris Shields became the first Dundalk player to see yellow after a tackle on Shane Robinson, while Brian Gartland was keeping Zayed in the Rovers' attack.
Shane Robinson was next to see yellow as Rovers were aimless with their passing and neither side troubling either keeper.
Rovers' Simon Madden cut inside Andy Boyle, but his curling effort from 20 yards lacked pace to beat Cherrie while Ryan Brennan headed wide and as half-time neared McCabe saw yellow.
Just before the break Dundalk had two half chances, but there was no end product. First Meenan's cross into the area wasn't dealt with by the Rovers defense and Byrne's effort was blocked down before the best chance of the opening half.
Hoban found Meenan who threaded a ball through to Towell but his effort rebounded back off Barry Murphy's legs as both goals remained in tact at the break.
With creativity at a minimum, neither showed any real threat with a Daryl Horgan effort the best either side managed in the first 10 minutes after the restart.
Towell found Massey on the left and after beating one tackler he played it to Hoban who laid it off to Horgan but his shot was deflected over.
It wasn't pretty to watch and but for laziness, Rovers could have been through, but Zayed strayed offside as Ronan Finn played a through ball.
Cherrie denied Dean Kelly as a header towards the top corner was caught by the Dundalk keeper.
But Rovers were wasteful with their hopeful long balls and were punished in the 66th minute.
Meenan through ball found Byrne down the right and his cross across the six yard box was hacked home by Hoban.
It could have been two with 15 minutes to go as Towell's effort was cleared off the line by McGuinness after Murphy's save.
In the closing 10 minutes Rovers threw everything at Dundalk with substitute Ciaran Kilduff and Zayed failing to find the target while Hoban saw an effort trickle past the post and Towell saw another effort saved by Murphy. Dundalk did just enough to edge out Rovers in a poor display of attacking ability.
With the Louth side in European action this week, they must improve on finishing their chances if they are to compete with Split.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy, David O'Connor, Jason McGuinness, Simon Madden, Conor Kenna, Shane Robinson, Gary McCabe (Sean O'Connor on 61), Ronan Finn, Ryan Brennan (Robert Bayly on 78), Dean Kelly (Ciaran Kilduff on 71), Eamon Zayed.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie, Dane Massey, Brian Gartland, Sean Gannon, Andrew Boyle, Chris Shields, Darren Meenan (John Mountney on 89), Daryl Horgan (Donal McDermott on 58), Richie Towell, Pat Hoban, Kurtis Byrne (Ruaidhri Higgins on 83).