Graham Burke proved the hero as champions Shamrock Rovers held firm to take a massive three points in a feisty Dublin derby at Tallaght Stadium.

A lively 7,879 - their biggest crowd of the season - were in situ to as 10-man Rovers took a huge step in retaining their title with matchwinner and sinner Burke proving the difference in a tense affair.

The hosts played out a surprising away 0-0 draw at a now-relegated UCD side, which left the door ajar for their title rivals to get within touching distance, but failure to do so by the chasing pack, meant the draw turned out to be a good point for Stephen Bradley's men who boasted a five-point lead prior to kick-off.

And it was the home side who went closest to opening the scoring just three minutes in when Roberto "Pico" Lopes rose highest in a crowded area but failed to direct Markus Poom's free-kick on target.

Damien Duff's Reds, in their third game in seven days, and off the back of a bruising away encounter at Dalymount on Monday night, settled into the game well as a tactical battle of attack versus defence ensued.

With little in the way of goalmouth action in the cagey affair, Hull loanee Will Jarvis looked very sharp on the left for Shels, causing chaos with his pace up against Ronan Finn, but just lacked that final ball.

Following a brief stoppage just after the half-hour mark when referee Damien MacGraith needed replacing, the game sprung to life.

Lincoln City-bound Jack Moylan showed great strength to steal the ball from Sean Kavanagh, and on the break slipped in Harry Wood. The young English attacker patiently waited for JJ Lunney on the overlap but on his favoured left foot inside the box, failed to trouble Alan Mannus.

Rovers went straight down the other end and the Poom/Lopes combination almost paid dividends when the latter just missed with another powerful header.

Bradley's men forced the issue after the break and went close twice in quick succession. Poom’s corner was cleverly flicked on at the near post but sat up just too high for Gaffney who couldn't get over the volley. Minutes later last season’s player of the year, Gaffney, broke the offside trap, before rounding Conor Kearns, but from a tight angle saw his strike cleared by the recovering Euclides Cabral.

Liam Burt was next to go close for the hosts, but following a neat move down the right between Burke and Finn, scuffed his first-time effort from his skipper's cut back.

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Graham Burke scores the only goal of Friday night's Dublin Derby

Both sides, who have been forced to share the spoils in their previous three meetings this season, looked to be heading for a fourth but with 20 minutes remaining the pressure finally told. The classy Burke showed good strength to hold off two challenges, before stroking home from 25 yards low into the bottom corner.

Just moments after putting his side ahead, Burke was shown a second yellow for a late challenge on Mark Coyle, who looked to be going nowhere out wide.

Luckily for Burke his side held on despite a late shout for a Shels penalty, as the Hoops went within touching distance of the title.

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Dan Cleary, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace; Ronan Finn (Richie Towell 76), Markus Poom, Gary O’Neill (Dylan Watts 62), Graham Burke, Sean Kavanagh (Trevor Clarke 76); Liam Burt (Jack Byrne 76), Rory Gaffney (Aaron Greene 85)

Shelbourne: Conor Kearns; Euclides Cabral (Shane Griffin 63), Paddy Barrett, Gavin Molloy, Tyreke Wilson; Will Jarvis, JJ Lunney (Brian McManus 90), Mark Coyle (Gbemi Arubi 83), Evan Caffrey (Shane Farrell 63); Harry Wood, Jack Moylan

Referee: Damien MacGraith (Paul McLoughlin 36)