Will Patching scored against UCD for the third match running as Derry City ended their slump with a first win in eight at the UCD Bowl.
The narrow, hard-fought victory edges Derry to within a point of second-placed Dundalk.
UCD's long season continues as Andy Myler's side remain three points adrift at the foot of the table following Finn Harps' late equaliser against St Pat's.
While skipper Jack Keaney returned to the College line-up following suspension, Ireland under-21 winger Liam Kerrigan wasn’t included ahead of his impending transfer from the club.
Despite injuries depriving them of five probable starters, Derry, who beat UCD 7-1 at the Brandywell in April, started on the front foot.
Left-winger Matty Smith had a dangerous cross cleared before skipper Patrick McEleney went down inside the area claiming a penalty, which wasn’t given, all inside the opening 90 seconds.
But it was UCD who registered the first real chance of the game on eight minutes.
Derry midfielder Patching’s appeals for a free kick weren’t entertained as College burst forward. Dylan Duffy cut in from the left on a surging run with his well struck low drive well saved down to his right by Brian Maher.
While Derry continued to enjoy much of the possession, it was Maher who was worked again on 17 minutes from Mark Dignam’s curling effort.
It was just past the half hour before Derry had their first scent of goal, left-back Ciaran Coll’s powerful header from a Patching corner flashing past a post.
But the visitors remained vulnerable at the back as they coughed up another chance to the Students inside a minute.
The lively Duffy outmuscled Cameron McJannet to set up Sean Brennan whose hurried shot from close in ballooned over the top, much to Derry’s relief.
In an open game now, College keeper Kian Moore then produced the save of the game on 41 minutes, brilliantly tipping over the top from Jamie McGonigle’s drive which looked destined for the top corner.
Again, though, Derry’s defending was suspect within a minute of the restart.
They failed to clear a Sam Todd free kick which eventually reached Brennan whose tame header was straight at Maher.
A mistake at the other end minutes later by Evan Osam gifted Derry a clear opening. Dara Keane got back superbly to block Thomson’s drive.
📹 | GOAL!— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) June 24, 2022
We knew the goals were coming 😅
Will Patching converts from the spot to give @derrycityfc the lead over @UCDAFC 🍬
Watch live | https://t.co/6iKvqbnwLM 📺#LOI | #LOITV pic.twitter.com/UazRPcIXx4
There was no reprieve for UCD on 53 minutes when Derry took the lead from the penalty spot after Michael Gallagher’s ill-judged trip on McGonigle.
Patching staggered his run up to nonchalantly side-foot the ball to the bottom corner of Moore net for his ninth goal of the season.
Joe Thomson shot wide when he really should have hit the target while Patrick McEleney cracked a shot from distance straight at Moore as Derry pressed to extend their lead.
UCD battled to the end, though, with substitute Adam Verdon having a vicious drive deflected for a corner on 90 minutes.
But Patching’s dead-ball precision proved enough at the finish.
UCD: Kian Moore; Michael Gallagher (John Ryan 66), Jack Keaney, Sam Todd, Evan Osam; Sean Brennan (Alex Nolan 66), Dara Keane; Mark Dignam (Sam Verdon 66), Evan Caffrey, Donal Higgins (Thomas Lonergan 57); Dylan Duffy (Danny Norris 84).
Derry City: Brian Maher; Caoimhin Porter, Shane McEleney, Cameron McJannet, Ciaran Coll; Joe Thomson, Patrick McEleney; Brandon Kavanagh (Danny Lafferty 89), Will Patching, Matty Smith (Evan McLaughlin 90+4); Jamie McGonigle (James Akintunde 73).
Referee: Ray Matthews (Midlands)