Dundalk remain two points behind Shamrock Rovers at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table as they were held to a 1-1 draw by St Patrick's Athletic at Oriel Park.
Vinny Perth's side, who also paid tribute to groundsman and cameraman Harry Taaffe, who passed away last weekend, knew they could ill-afford to drop points on the restart having already trailed early pacesetters Shamrock Rovers by three from the opening five games in February and March.
Despite Patrick Hoban’s 100th goal for the club giving them a 23rd minute advantage, former Lilywhite Robbie Benson cancelled it out within 80 seconds.
Indeed, it was Stephen O’Donnell’s side who looked the most likely winners after that as the champions struggled to get going without their usually vocal home crowd behind them.
The result means they could be five points off Rovers by the end of the weekend with Stephen Bradley’s side in action against Finn Harps on Saturday evening.
It was the visitors who started the brighter of the two sides with good pressing keeping the champions on the back foot.
It took until the 21st minute for them to register their first chance, however, with a long range pot shot from Jordan Gibson flashing just over the bar.
The good work was undone somewhat two minutes later however, when Dundalk capitalised on a mistake to hit the front.
A loose back pass by Rory Feely was missed by Luke McNally with Stefan Colovic nipping in to square for Hoban for what was his 100th goal in Dundalk colours.
The lead would last just 80 seconds with Benson returning to haunt his old side as he crept in at the near post to turn past Gary Rogers.
Indeed, the Richmond Park side could have been ahead on 33 minutes when Rogers' clearance after coming off his line went only as far as Dan Ward who rounded the keeper only to see his effort come back off the post.
David Titov’s follow up was then blocked on the line by Dane Massey.The home side had a good chance of their own to restore their lead on 39 minutes but Duffy couldn’t find the target with his volley from Colovic’s pass.
The expected backlash from the hosts did not arrive on the restart with Ward going close again with an effort that was deflected over by Boyle before Feely also went close with a header from the resulting corner.
Gibson then pulled a shot just wide on 53 minutes before Shields whistled a shot just over four minutes later in what was Dundalk’s first attempt of the half.
The Lilywhites then somehow failed to take the lead on 64 minutes when Duffy’s free kick picked out the unmarked Greg Sloggett in the six yard box but he could only head over from point blank range.
Pat’s then felt somewhat aggrieved on 71 minutes when substitute Jason McClelland looked to slip Gibson in only for the striker to have his heels clipped on the edge of the box by Daniel Cleary, who was fortunate to escape with just a yellow card as the last man.
Despite plenty of intent, it was Pat’s who had the best chance of winning it late on with substitute Martin Rennie pulling a shot just wide. It was a good point for the Inchicore men but how costly could it prove for Dundalk in their pursuit for a third league title in-a-row?
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Daniel Cleary, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey, Chris Shields, Greg Sloggett (John Mountney 85); Stefan Colovic (Daniel Kelly 53), Jordan Flores (Patrick McEleney 53) (David McMillan 75), Michael Duffy (Nathan Oduwa 85); Patrick Hoban. Subs not used: Aaron McCarey, Brian Gartland.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Rory Feely, Luke McNally, Lee Desmond; Jamie Lennon; David Titov, Dan Ward (Darragh Markey 89), Chris Forrester (Jason McClelland 67), Robbie Benson, Shane Griffin; Jordan Gibson (Martin Rennie 80). Subs not used: Conor Kearns, Ian Bermingham, Ben McCormack, Darragh Burns.
Referee: Rob Harvey (Dublin).