Sligo Rovers capitalised on Friday evening's stalemate between Drogheda United and St Patrick's Athletic with a 4-1 win over Derry City at the Showgrounds.

The win now sees the Bit O'Red open up an eight point gap between themselves and their nearest challengers at the top of the Airtricity League Premier Division with four games remaining.

Goals from Gavin Peers, Lee Lynch and a Raffaele Cretaro brace gave the league leaders a comfortable win over Declan Devin's side who replied through a second half Mark Farren strike.

Sligo boss Ian Baraclough was without long-term injury victims Danny North (knee), Iarfhliath Davoren (heel) and Alan Keane (metatarsal), while Gavin Peers took his place in the starting XI, after he missed out on last Friday’s scoreless draw with Bray.

Derry made the short journey south without suspended midfielder Barry Molloy and the injured Stephen McLaughlin who failed to pass a late fitness test, but they did welcome back defenders Simon Madden and Ryan McBride who returned to the squad after serving bans.

The game was only three minutes old when Sligo carved out the first chance of the game. Joseph Ndo's short free found Ross Gaynor who found space down the left and his searching cross was met by the head of Jason McGuinness. The towering centre half rose higher than his marker, but saw his effort sail wide of the Derry post.

City had their first sight of goal soon after when Ruaidhri Higgins got on the end of Patrick McEleney's cross from the right, Higgins failed to put enough power behind his header to trouble Sligo 'keeper Gary Rogers.

Rovers threatened again soon after, and on seven minutes a move that involved Mark Quigley, Pascal Millien and Lee Lynch resulted in the latter's through ball finding Cretaro. From a tight angle, Cretaro attempted to chip Doherty but the ball ended up on the roof of the Candystripes net.

Declan Devine's charges eventually folded to Sligo pressure on 14 minutes as Millien's mazy brought him past Kevin Deery, Stewart Greacen and Ryan McBride. The Haitian's low drive was met by the legs of Doherty who did well to get down low and deflect the ball away for a corner.

The resulting set piece caused confusion in the Derry area and Gavin Peers seemed to get the last touch before the ball was turned into the Candystripes' net after a series off attempts to clear the ball from danger.

In front of a crowd of 4,083, the FAI Cup holders thought they had doubled their lead on 25 minutes when Doherty spilled a rasping Cretaro shot into the path of Ndo who finished past the City net-minder only for linesman Paul Deering to have adjudged the Cameroon international offside.

Sligo enjoyed a long-lasting purple patch from here until the half-time whistle. Millien, who caused Derry left back Dermot MCaffrey a host of problems all evening went close on the half-hour mark when he blasted a shot narrowly over the opposition crossbar.

Sligo did eventually grab their second of the contest ten minutes before half time. A mix up between Doherty and centre-half Greacen resulted in the Scotsman's sliced clearance falling to man-of-the-match Cretaro, who expertly curled the ball past Doherty and into the City net.

Rogers was the first of the two goalkeepers to be called upon in the second period. Mark Farren's neat header set up Higgins whose drive had Rogers at full stretch, but the Donegal man's shot dragged narrowly wide.

Sligo had their third on 56 minutes when Lee Lynch's through ball found Cretaro who fired past the on-coming Doherty and into the net. This was Sligo's fifth time in as many games to score three or more goals, therefore breaking a club record.

The game ebbed and flowed from here on in,Derry heads not dropping despite the margin and they claimed a reply on 69 minutes when Higgins' exquisite through ball found former Sligo striker David McDaid who finished with aplomb past Rogers to cut Rovers' lead to two.

This brought on an air of discontent around the Maugheraboy venue for a short period, but the home fans didn't have to wait long for a fourth. Simon Madden's misplaced throw-in fell straight to the feet of Lynch who bore down on the Candystripes goal and finished well to restore the Bit o'Red's three goal lead with 14 minutes left to play.

It was the eventual winners who finished the tie the better side. Millien and substitute Liam Buchanan had chances for a fifth but Doherty was equal to both efforts on 83 and 86 minutes respectively. A late McBride free-kick which sailed high into the Sligo night sky was the closest the visitors came to a second.

Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Seamus Conneely, Jason McGuinness, Gavin Peers, Ross Gaynor; Pascal Millien, Joseph Ndo, Lee Lynch, Danny Ventre, Raffaele Cretaro; Mark Quigely.

Subs: Richard Brush, Jeff Henderson, David Cawley (for Lynch 80), John Dillon, Liam Buchanan (for Quigley 68), Ryan Connolly (for Cretaro 80), Martin Owens.

Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Simon Madden, Dermot McCafferty, Stewart Greacen, Ryan McBride; Patrick McEleney, Ruaidhri Higgins, Barry McNamee, Kevin Deery; Mark Farren, David McDaid.

Subs: Eugene Ferry, Shane McEleney (for Greacen 74), Conor Murphy (for McEleney 64), Ryan Curran (for Deery 83), Caoimhin Bonner, Michael Duffy.

Booked: Higgins, Deery, McBride, McNamee