An Andy Boyle own goal coupled with Frank Liivak's first Sligo Rovers goal boosted the Bit O’Red’s outside chances of a top-four finish as they saw off 10-man Dundalk at the Showgrounds.
Dundalk’s Darragh Leahy saw red on 23 minutes before Lilywhites skipper Boyle turned the ball into his own net just short of the hour. While Estonian international Liivak doubled the host’s lead seven minutes from time.
Struggling recently on the domestic scene with just one win from their last five in league and cup, a Sligo side in need of points made two changes from their derby defeat to Finn Harps. Max Mata and Karl O’Sullivan making way for the experienced Greg Bolger and Estonian international Liivak respectively.
Following an energy-sapping extra-time win over Wexford in the FAI Cup last week, Dundalk boss Stephen O’Donnell brought Leahy, Alfie Lewis, Ryan O’Kane, John Mountney and John Martin all back into the fold.
During an eventful opening half, it was the home side who produced the more promising start.
Top scorer Aidan Keena had the ball in the net five minutes in, but Liivak had strayed into an offside position in the build-up. While Will Fitzgerald failed to make the most of a poor pass from Dundalk goalkeeper Nathan Sheppard seconds later.
Rovers were almost the architects of their own downfall on nine minutes when a Shane Blaney mishap allowed John Martin in. Sligo goalkeeper Luke McNicholas saved his defender’s blushes as he got across to keep out Martin’s low effort.
The game’s big talking point arrived on 23 minutes when, trying to track Keena’s run, Leahy stumbled and fell onto a through ball from Paddy Kirk.
Deciding Leahy was the last man, referee John McLoughlin issued Leahy with a straight red after consulting with fourth official Damien McGraith who had noticed Leahy had controlled the ball with his hand.
Kirk bolted a first time drive narrowly past Nathan Sheppard’s post on 26 minutes, shortly before Lewis Banks fired wide after some trickery at the edge of the visitor’s penalty area. While there were further chances for both Kirk and Keena before the interval.
The half-time break seemed to take the wind out of the Sligo sails as 10-man Dundalk did the majority of the pressing after the re-start. But John Russell’s side were gifted the lead on 57 minutes.
Keena’s initial effort was repelled by Sheppard, but the Mullingar man’s tenacity paid off as he won the ball back before his cross bounced off the unfortunate Boyle and beyond Sheppard.
Only minutes on the pitch, Rovers’ Max Mata pulled an effort across the face of goal on the hour as Sligo looked to hit their opponents with a second sucker-punch.
O’Donnell introduced the heavy artillery from the bench in the shape of Robbie Benson and David McMillan on 65 minutes and this rejuvenated the Oriel Park side for a short time.
However, the closest they could come to an equaliser was on 73 minutes when John Mountney fizzed an effort across Luke McNicholas’ goal.
Sligo all but settled the tie seven minutes from time. Substitute Kailin Barlow involved before Keena laid the ball into the path of Liivak who finished to the roof of the net.
Sligo Rovers: Luke McNicholas; Lewis Banks, Shane Blaney (Cameron Evans 39), Nando Pijnaker, Paddy Kirk; Robbie Burton (Kailin Barlow 77), Greg Bolger (Niall Morahan 77), Adam McDonnell (Max Mata 58); Frank Liivak, Will Fitzgerald; Aidan Keena.
Dundalk: Nathan Sheppard; Lewis Macari, Andy Boyle, Joe Adams (Keith Ward 80); John Mountney (Runar Hauge 80), Darragh Leahy; Greg Sloggett (Robbie Benson 65), Alfie Lewis, Steven Bradley (David McMillan 65); Ryan O’Kane; John Martin (Sam Bone 30).
Referee: John McLoughlin.