Sligo Rovers pulled six points clear of the relegation play-off with a 2-0 victory over UCD in Belfield on Monday night.
Dante Leverock and David Cawley were on target in the second half as the Students, in what has become a pattern, lost confidence as soon as they fell behind.
The game had the air of a six-pointer about it, even at this early stage of the season, as a win for Collie O’Neill’s Students would see them draw level with the Bit o’ Red.
Both sides had chances during an entertaining first half that saw Sligo content to allow UCD to dominate the ball and pick them off with pace on the counter.
It was a set-piece that led to their first opening inside three minutes as Rónán Coughlan turned a loose ball on goal – it was a lesson the hosts wouldn’t heed.
A curling effort from David Cawley was comfortably saved by Conor Kearns in the UCD goal before Conor Davis forced Mitchell Beeney to claw a shot out of the top corner from 30 yards.
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Romeo Parkes – who was dynamic throughout – started and finished a move from midfield but couldn’t direct his header from Donelon’s cross past Kearns.
Davis had Beeney scrambling once before on the stroke of half time with an awkward, bouncing shot, but the keeper did enough to turn it behind.
Sligo emerged from the second half with renewed purpose and could have led when Parkes picked out Coughlan on the overlap, but his low shot didn’t trouble Kearns.
They hit the front nine minutes into the second half when UCD failed to clear a corner and Kris Twardek’s overhead found Leverock six yards out to head home.
UCD brought on captain Gary O’Neill and top scorer Yoyo Mahdy in a bid to turn the tide but it was Sligo who were celebrating a comic second ten minutes from time.
Cawley’s corner kick from the left was allowed to bounce in the UCD box and it continued all the way into the top corner.
UCD: Kearns; Farrell (McDonald 79), Scales, Collins, Dignam; Doyle, O’Farrell, Molloy (O’Neill 66); Farrugia, Coffey (Mahdy 69), Davis.
Sligo Rovers: Beeney; Dunleavy, Leverock, Mahon, Banks; Keaney, Cawley, Coughlan (Murray 58); Twardek (Kerrigan 87), Donelon, Parkes.
Referee: Sean Grant.