Dundalk took a massive step towards advancing in the Europa Conference League after a comfortable victory over Newtown at Oriel Park.

Two goals in six minutes late in the first half from Michael Duffy and David McMillan set Vinny Perth's side on their way before Will Patching made sure of the win with a stunning third midway through the second half.

South Korean Han Jeong-woo then added a fourth right at the death to ensure the club equalled their biggest ever European victory - a 4-0 home win over FRAM Reykjavik in September 1981.

This means that barring a massive shock in Tuesday’s second leg, Dundalk can look forward to a second qualifying round tie against either Levadia Tallinn of Estonia or St Joseph’s of Gibraltar later this month.

The Lilywhites were a class above their Welsh opponents from the outset and were full value for the win.

Newtown rarely threatened although they did go close to halving the deficit shortly after the restart when Alessio Abibi had to come to the home side’s rescue on a couple of occasions.

Both these sides were missing players due to positive Covid-19 cases but despite that revelation in the Dundalk camp yesterday, they produced a performance that should make the second leg largely a formality.

Michael Duffy scoring Dundalk's opener

It was largely one-way traffic from the off with Patrick McEleney going close twice in a matter of minutes early on. Firstly he sent a dipping shot just wide from the edge of the area on eight minutes before being denied by a super save from David Jones two minutes later after getting his head to Daniel Kelly’s cross.

Despite dominating the ball after that, Dundalk struggled to break down their opponents. McMillan did fire over from long range on 23 minutes and while Kelly had the ball in the net four minutes later, it was ruled out for offside.

The breakthrough then arrived on 33 minutes with Duffy turning in his 50th goal for the club at the back post from Kelly’s right wing cross after a superb ball from McMillan had set him away.

McMillan then doubled his side’s lead on 39 minutes with a header across Jones to the bottom left hand corner from Darragh Leahy’s cross from the left for what was the 12th European goal of his career - breaking the record previously held by Glen Crowe.

The striker did attempt an overhead kick just before the break but it flashed over as the hosts went off 2-0 ahead at half-time.

The Louth men were fortunate not to concede within two minutes of the restart, however, when Sonni Nattestad failed to deal with a long ball forward allowing Jamie Breese to get in behind him. He was denied by the legs Alessio Abibi with the Albanian goalkeeper doing equally well to save the follow up from Nick Rushton.

From the resulting corner Kieran Mills-Evans had a free header deflected over before the home side finally managed to clear their lines.The result was then put beyond doubt on 62 minutes when Patching rifled a stunning 30 yard shot past Jones to the bottom left hand corner for what was his first goal for the club.

Leahy then volleyed just wide three minutes later before Jordan Evans threatened for Newtown with a shot that Abibi spilled but no one in red was on hand to follow up on.

Either side of that effort both Duffy and McEleney would sting the palms of Jones but it was the visitors who went closest to adding to the scoreline after that with substitute Dylan Downs seeing a shot dip just over in the 93rd minute.

There would be further late drama, however, with Han nodding in at the back post after Leahy had been clattered by Jones after breaking in from the left.

Dundalk: Alessio Abibi; Raivis Jurkovskis, Andy Boyle, Sonni Nattestad, Darragh Leahy; Sam Stanton, Patrick McEleney; Daniel Kelly (Han Jeong-woo 75), Will Patching (Wilfried Zahibo 80), Michael Duffy; David McMillan (Ole Erik Midtskogen 80).

Subs not used: Peter Cherrie, Niall Brady, Greg Sloggett, Val Adedokun, Ryan O’Kane, Mark Hanratty.

Newtown AFC: David Jones; Craig Williams, Kieran Mills-Evans, Callum Roberts, Jordan Evans; James Davies (Alfie Jones 89), James Rowland (Sean McAllister 68), Alex Fletcher; Nick Rushton (Dylan Downs 89), Aaron Williams, Jamie Breese (Rhys Hesden 89).

Subs not used: Khamrhan Steventon, Dave Rose, Ben Speake.Referee: Barbeno Luca (San Marino).