Second-half strikes from Mattie Smith and Ronan Coughlan got St Patrick's Athletic back on track as they had far too much for struggling Longford Town.

Victory, only their second in seven games, sees Saints close the gap on joint Premier Division leaders Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers to three points.

Waterford's surprise victory in Dundalk on Friday night means Longford, without a win now in 14 games since the opening night of the season, slump to the bottom of the table.

Longford welcomed 200 fans back to Bishopsgate under new government guidelines.

In the stands with them were both managers, St Pat's Stephen O'Donnell and Longford's Daire Doyle, serving the first of three-match touchline bans. Longford assistant manager John Martin was also not in the dugout as he sat out a one-game suspension.

First-team coach Stephen Maher called the shots from the sideline for Town while Patrick Cregg, Saints’ assistant manager, did likewise for the Inchicore side.

In a lively opening, a Town corner came to nothing as the home side soon had to call on Lee Steacy to tip over a Paddy Barrett header from a well-floated Alfie Lewis free-kick.

That led to a bout of Saints' pressure with Lewis prominent again on nine minutes, curling a shot wide after Coughlan laid off a ball into the area from John Mountney.

Steacy’s second save of the game came two minutes later, the keeper diving acrobatically to his left to push a Coughlan free kick round a post.

Longford briefly lifted the siege with a Dylan Grimes in-swinging corner having to be clawed away by Vitezslav Jaros.

Robbie Benson opened the scoring

Saints responded by putting the ball in the Town net on 24 minutes, but Smith's effort was ruled out for a handball.

Defensive dithering then almost cost Town the lead on 34 minutes when Aaron O’Driscoll and Paddy Kirk failed to deal with a dropping ball into their area.

Lewis pounced to cross to the back post for Smith who had more time than perhaps he realised as he blasted his volley into the side netting.

Such was the pressure, something had to give and Saints’ utter dominance duly brought their deserved lead on 41 minutes.

Having won St Pat’s seventh corner of the game, Robbie Benson got on the end of Mountney’s delivery to head past Steacy.

From having scarcely been in the game in the first half, a mistake gifted Town an unlikely equaliser three minutes into the second half.

Jaros sliced an attempted clearance into the air with Lewis then adjudged to have bundled over Rob Manley to concede a penalty.

Aaron Dobbs confidently sent Jaros the wrong way from the spot.

With service resuming at the other end, frantic Longford defending was needed to keep out Chris Forrester on 54 minutes.

First Steacy got down well to parry the midfielder's first effort with Aaron O’Driscoll sliding in to put the rebound out for a corner.

St Pat’s weren’t to be denied, though, as they punished defensive frailty to finally regain the lead on 64 minutes.

Aaron Robinson’s misplaced pass went straight to Forrester whose shot was parried away by Steacy. Smith arrived on cue to blast the rebound to the net.

Coughlan added the third goal with a fine header from substitute Darragh Burns’ cross on 81 minutes.

Longford Town: Lee Steacy; Aaron McNally, Mick McDonnell, Aaron O’Driscoll, Paddy Kirk; Aodh Dervin, Dean Zambra; Dylan Grimes (Callum Thompson h-t), Aaron Dobbs (Conor Davis 76), Aaron Robinson (Dean Byrne 69); Rob Manley (Aaron McCabe 84).

St Patrick’s Athletic: Vitezslav Jaros; John Mountney, Paddy Barrett, Lee Desmond, Ian Bermingham; Chris Forrester (Ben McCormack 90+1), Alfie Lewis; Billy King (Darragh Burns 64), Robbie Benson, Mattie Smith (Jay McClelland 90+1); Ronan Coughlan.

Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin).