Shamrock Rovers regained sole possession of pole position in the Premier Division as they ground out a deserved 3-1 win over St Patrick's Athletic at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.
Danny Mandroiu scored a goal in either half, while Roberto Lopes was also on target after John Mountney had levelled for the Saints on the stroke of half time.
The irresistible Dylan Watts laid on all three goals for the Hoops’ as he ran midfield in challenging conditions that ranged from blustery to torrential downpour.
The result leaves Rovers three points clear of Pat's at the summit with one fewer game played as they prepare for their Europa Conference League tie with Albania’s Teuta on Thursday.
And they were made to work for the three points but a dogged and creative Athletic side, who matched the Hoops’ 3-4-3 formation and shut down their dangerous wide players for spells.
The rain made an arduous task of passing football for both sides in the first half, and it was no surprise the first flowing move produced the first goal.
A wonderful through-ball from Lee Grace opened up space for Watts to run into, and the midfielder picked out the arriving Mandroiu to sweep gracefully home.
Mandroiu could have doubled his tally shortly afterwards with a free header from Ronan Finn’s cross, and the captain was denied moments later by a superb last-ditch Lee Desmond tackle.
Saints levelled with the last kick of the first half as Mountney’s long-range free-kick took a wicked deflection off Watts in the wall and wrong-footed Alan Mannus in the home goal.
The second half continued in the same pattern as the first, though, and Rovers deservedly regained the lead on the hour as Lopes glanced home Watts’ corner from the left.
Mandroiu headed wide once more, and Gaffney was thwarted by a superb Sam Bone tackle, but the home side got the insurance goal 18 minutes from time.
A defence-splitting pass from Watts sent Mandroiu clear and this time he made no mistake, dinking the ball delightfully over Jaros and in off the underside of the bar.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O'Brien, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace (Sean Kavanagh 75): Ronan Finn (Sean Gannon 78), Dylan Watts (Sean Hoare 83), Gary O'Neill, Liam Scales; Richie Towell, Danny Mandroiu (Aaron Greene 83), Rory Gaffney.
St Patrick's Athletic: Vitezslav Jaros; Sam Bone (kyrian Nwoko 87), Paddy Barrett (Rónán Coughlan 58), Lee Desmond; John Mountney, Chris Forrester, Alfie Lewis (Nahum Melvin-Lambert 75), Jay McClelland; Darragh Burns, Billy King, Robbie Benson.
Referee: Derek Tomney.