Dundalk needed a late goal from top scorer from Patrick Hoban to keep their four-point lead at the top of the Premier Division table and see off a Barry Ryan-inspired Limerick 1-0 at Oriel Park.

The home side were unchanged from the one which drew in Drogheda in their previous outing while Limerick brought in Jack Doherty and Shane Duggan at the expense of Kieran Djilali and Prince Agyemang.

Daryl Horgan had the Super Blues defence worried early on when he slipped a superb pass through on the left for the marauding Dane Massey, but his effort was met by a firm stop from Barry Ryan.

The veteran goalkeeper was a relieved man minutes later when Patrick Hoban flicked newly-crowned SWAI Player of the Month for July Richie Towell’s pass into the path of Kurtis Byrne, but his tea-mate volleyed over unchallenged with the goal at his mercy.

Ryan was called back into action midway through the half and this time it was to bail out Stephen Folan after he was dispossessed by Towell on the edge of his own area, but the goalkeeper sprawled wonderfully to his right to make the save when the midfielder looked set to score.

Limerick did have their own chances in the interim albeit not as clear as those created by their hosts. Robbie Williams headed off target unmarked from a corner kick and Ian Turner was always going to require something rather more special than he produced when trying to chip Peter Cherrie on the right.

Moments after that chance was missed, Dundalk passed up another great opportunity for the lead when Hoban again provided for Byrne, sending him haring through on the right, but he thundered his shot straight at Ryan when he should have found the corner.

If Dundalk were growing exasperated by Ryan’s first half heroics, it continued into the second. The goalkeeper dove to his left to keep out Byrne, who could have been celebrating a hat-trick on another night, and then did the same with Hoban shortly afterwards who diverted a Towell volley at goal and was once more kept out.

Substitute David McMillan was met with the same resistance when he tried his luck with a curler from outside the penalty box as it began to look increasingly like the Lilywhites would wind up winless for the second successive week.

That is until Hoban’s massive intervention with six minutes remaining when he stole in front of Ryan who came to punch a Meenan corner kick and thundered home his 15th league goal of the season to leave Limerick limp and stunned.

Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; Chris Shields (Ruaidhri Higgins 79), Richie Towell; Darren Meenan, Kurtis Byrne (David McMillan 70), Daryl Horgan; Patrick Hoban (John Mountney 88).

Limerick: Barry Ryan; Patrick Nzuzi, Samuel Oji, Stephen Folan, Robbie Williams; Jason Hughes, Shane Duggan, Lee-J Lynch; Ian Turner (Shane Tracy 85), Jack Doherty (Kieran Djilali 73); Rory Gaffney (Tam McManus 63).

Referee: Rob Rogers.

Attendance: 2,256.