Stephen O'Donnell's dramatic 88th-minute winner moved Dundalk level on points with St Patrick's Athletic at the top of the table as the Lilywhites overcame Drogheda United 1-0 in a tense Louth derby at Oriel Park.

O'Donnell pounced on a mistake by Drogs centre-back Alan McNally to casually roll the ball past Michael Schlingermann to give Stephen Kenny's side a precious three points that their performance barely deserved.

It was Mick Cooke's side who controlled much of the first-half.

Dundalk's clearest opening came after just 97 seconds.

Skipper O'Donnell flashed a wicked ball from the left across the face of goal but Pat Hoban just couldn't extend himself enough to prod the ball home.

The Drogs grew in stature and David Cassidy, one of five former Dundalk players in the Drogs XI, positioned himself in a dangerous area to receive Declan O'Brien's cutback only for O'Donnell to block his effort.

The visitors continued to ask all the questions and after three corners in as many minutes, they thought they had pulled ahead ten minutes before the break.

Cassidy's corner from the left cleared Cherrie and was bundled home at the far post by Mick Daly but, fortunately for Dundalk, referee Alan Kelly saw an infringement and ruled the goal out.

It was the Boynesiders who looked potent going forward at the start of the second-half and Cherrie had to be sharp to tip a goal-bound O'Brien header over from Mick Daly's hooked cross.

The home side were living on their nerves again in the 78th minute.

Cassidy's free-kick from the left fell to Byrne at the back post but, with Cherrie in no man's land, he hesitated before scooping the ball over the top.

It looked like the Drogs would leave their neighbours rueing a missed opportunity but O'Donnell popped up to dispossess the otherwise excellent McNally to send the home supporters into raptures.

There was still time for late drama as Dundalk finished the game with ten men after Chris Shields was sent-off for a second bookable offence in stoppage time.

Dundalk: Cherrie; Rossiter, Boyle, Shields, Massey; Meenan (Sullivan 90), Towell, O'Donnell, Mountney (McCaffrey 37), Mulvenna (Dillon 37); Hoban.

Drogheda United: Schlingermann; Daly (O’Neil 89), Prendergast, McNally, Grimes; Brady (O’Conor 68), Daly (O’Neil 89), R Brennan, Cassidy, G Brennan; O’Brien.

Referee: Alan Kelly (Cork).

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