Shamrock Rovers extended their lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division to five points thanks to Danny Mandroiu's superb injury-time goal against nearest challengers St Patrick's Athletic.
Just as this evenly-contested clash looked to be petering out to a draw, the Republic of Ireland international produced a lung-busting run into the box and cool finish to punish a heavy touch from Lee Desmond in the 92nd minute.
The Saints now look cut adrift in second as the champions’ grasp on their crown tightens.
St Pat's got off the to the perfect start and their early pressure paid off after just five minutes when Mandroiu was robbed of possession near the right side of his own box.
Danny Mandroiu scored a late winner as @ShamrockRovers beat @stpatsfc 2-1— Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) May 8, 2021
Check out all the goals and key moments from the game below
Match report: https://t.co/xXiMNUeElO #RTESoccer #WatchLOI pic.twitter.com/9arfYYHpQm
A cross from full-back John Mountney was deflected into the path of Chris Forrester, and he struck his shot into the ground, with the bounce beating goalkeeper Alan Mannus into the bottom right corner.
Pat's were flying and the champions stunned, but not for long. Bit by bit they regained control with neat passages of play in midfield causing their opponents all kinds of problems.
There wasn’t much in the way of end product, however, and when striker Rory Gaffney fluffed a shot low into the legs of Vitezslav Jaros after being put through on goal after 20 minutes, it looked as if maybe it would be one of those days.
That feeling didn’t last long.
Jaros made a couple of simple handling errors with shots that came his way and was lucky not to be punished. He didn’t get away with it when Burke rifled in at the near post from just outside the box on the left four minutes before the break.
It was a sloppy goal to concede but no less than Rovers deserved. The tempo was relentless, Rovers dealing with it better as the Pat’s midfield was unable to get to grips with the challenge posed.
Burke was shown a yellow just after his goal for a rash foul on Billy King, the third of the game after bookings apiece for Jamie Lennon and Liam Scales, and the fiery nature was not contained to the pitch.
St Pat’s head coach Stephen O’Donnell and Rovers assistant Glen Cronin were also cautioned for verbals on the touchline.
Even at this stage of the season this felt like a fixture that meant something. Not just because it’s a Dublin derby, but these are the sides that have set the early pace, with Sligo Rovers not far off.
Rovers go five clear at the top with this win and that League of Ireland unbeaten record now extends to 32 games.
For Pat’s, still very much a work in progress, this was a first defeat of a campaign in which they look best equipped to make this a title race.
They showed their resilience in the second half by wrestling the initiative back from Stephen Bradley’s side, but Rovers showed their class to pilfer the points with Mandroiu’s superb run and close range finish down the right side.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Vietzslav Jaros; John Mountney, Sam Bone (Nahum Melvin-Lambert 93),, Lee Desmond, Ian Bermingham (c) (Shane Griffin HT); Chris Forrester, Jamie Lennon, Alfie Lewis (Jay McClelland 68) (Ben McCormack 77); Billy King; Ronan Coughlan, Mattie Smith.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O’Brien (Roberto Lopes 49), Sean Hoare, Lee Grace, Ronan Finn (Chris McCann 68), Dylan Watts, Gary O’Neill, Daniel Mandroiu, Liam Scales; Graham Burke (Sean Gannon 68), Rory Gaffney (Dean Williams 87).
Referee: Derek Tomney