Bohemians ran out comfortable if slightly flattered three-goal winners over UCD to set up a top-of-the-standings Dublin derby clash Tuesday away to Shamrock Rovers.
Strikes either side of the interval from Dinny Corcoran (penalty) and Conor Levingston were harsh on the visitors, whose chance all but evaporated when Danny Grant made it 3-0 in the third quarter.
Among the 2,968 fans in attendance was Minister for Sport Shane Ross, who would have been impressed with the Students' play, if not some of their defending.
Bohs still trail Shamrock Rovers by a whopping eight points but they do have a game in hand ahead of a pretty daunting trip across the capital in four days' time, their hopes resting to a degree on their staggeringly good record against the Hoops in recent seasons.
Moreover, they achieved this victory over a classy if naive UCD side despite playmaker Keith Ward missing out due to injury. And their superb defensive record is even better now, just four goals leaked in 11 games.
UCD began really brightly and Jason McClelland found a surprising amount of space at the corner of the area, his cross put out for a corner – from which the visitors headed over – by Aaron Barry.
College were deeply impressive in the opening 20 minutes, with Bohemians sitting off and struggling to get on the ball. McClelland forced an unconvincing save from Matt Talbot and from the corner-kick that ensued Richie O'Farrell headed onto the top of the crossbar, a Dinny Corcoran flick shortly afterwards that went over amounting to Bohs' first attack.
Neil Farrugia looks set to go a long way in this game and the Dubliner's pace was too much for the Gypsies' defence midway through the half; however, he rather wrenched his effort wide in front of Minister Ross and the Des Kelly Stand.
Stunning play from UCD should have resulted in the lead goal on 26 minutes, Farrugia finding Yoyo Mahdy who's shot produced a world-class save from Matt Talbot onto the crossbar. It was a piece of brilliance from Talbot that even had his predecessor, Shane Supple, pursuing superlatives in the Jodi Stand.
Gary O'Neill made a vital defensive block to deny Corcoran on 34 minutes before keeper Conor Kearns comfortably dealt with a nice strike from a hitherto quiet Danny Mandroiu.
The Bohs crowd was surprisingly quiet – all down to the relative dominance of UCD, who looked set to score after a mesmerising Farrugia run as half-time approached. Luckily for Talbot, the Irish under-19 international's shot was too close to the centre of his goal.
Grant seemed to be bundled over in the box by Mark Dingham and Corcoran put Kearns the wrong way to give Bohs a lead they hardly deserved just before the break. It was tough on UCD but such are the small margins at this level.
Bohs doubled their lead shortly after the interval. Grant and Mandroiu combined, the former crossing for Livingston and the Wexford man dispatched cooly from the edge of the box.
Grant effectively ended any doubt about the outcome when he pounced after an excellent Kearns save from Mandroiu's drive.
Levingston was lively and forced Kearns into another save as Bohs turned on the style at 3-0 up.
A triple substitution by Collie O'Neill on 63 minutes almost paid off in a matter of seconds but Timmy Molloy hooked the ball wide when he ought to have scored.
At the other end, Corcoran was left wondering how he failed to convert from a matter of yards. As the game eased to its conclusion, Bohs had a shout for a penalty when Mandroiu went down after an aggressive challenge by Paul Doyle.
Bohemian: Talbot; Lyons, Finnerty, Barry, Leahy; Buckley, Grant (Reghba 72), Devaney (Graydon 70), Levingston, Mandroiu; Corcoran.
UCD: Kearns; Tobin, Scales, Collins, Dingham (McDonald 63); Doyle, O'Neil, O'Farrell; Farrugia, Mahdy (Molloy 63) McClelland (Davis 63) .
Referee: Paul Tuite (Dublin).