WILL Patching netted a brace against his former club Dundalk as Derry City romped to victory at Oriel Park which moved them into second spot and kept alive their title hopes with eight games to go.
Dundalk enjoyed the best of the first half chances but it was Patching who found the target three minutes before the break with a beautifully taken strike into the bottom corner.
Ben Doherty, who had missed a glorious chance to double Derry's advantage on the stroke of half-time, made amends 80 seconds into the second half when he pounced on the loose ball inside the box and tucked home his fifth goal of the season.
Patching ensured victory on 77 minutes after he was bundled over by Daniel Kelly inside the box before stepping up to send Nathan Sheppard the wrong way with his spotkick - his fourth goal from the penalty spot in all competitions this campaign!
Dundalk striker Pat Hoban then reduced the deficit on 95 minutes from the penalty spot after substitute Jamie McGonigle brought down Kelly inside the penalty area.
It was Derry's first victory on the road since a 1-0 win over Bohemians at Dalymount Park back on May 12th but it wasn't as plain sailing as the scoreline would suggest.
City keeper Brian Maher produced a string of excellent saves to keep intact his team's lead throughout the 90 minutes while Hoban crashed a header off the post in the second half.
With St Patrick's Athletic losing to Shelbourne, it was an important night in the race for the league title but four in a row seeking Shamrock Rovers clinched an impressive 3-0 win against Bohemians to keep intact their seven point advantage over Derry.
Ruaidhri Higgins made three changes from last week's 2-2 draw against Bohemians at Dalymount. Mark Connolly (ankle) missed out through injury while Sadou Diallo was serving a one game suspension. Michael Duffy, carrying a knock, started on the bench while skipper Patrick McEleney, his brother Shane and Sam Todd were called into the starting line-up. It was Todd's first appearance since July 2017 in the Europa League second leg clash against Midtjylland at the Sligo Showgrounds during his first spell with the Brandywell club and his first since his summer signing from UCD.
Derry were slow out of the blocks but still managed to create a couple of promising attacks. The first came from a misplaced pass from the Dundalk midfield which was picked up by Danny Mullen who ran towards goal but the Scotsman's control let him down on the edge of the box.
A searching diagonal ball from Todd almost found the run of McMullan but Darragh Leahy managed to recover and clear the danger.
Dundalk registered the first shot on target on 10 minutes following a swift break. Archie Davis raced out from his right-back position and crossed towards Daryl Horgan who was racing into the box. The former Preston winger dummied beautifully to play Samuel Durrant into space but the Sheffield Wednesday loanee's strike from an angle was saved well by Maher.
McMullan found himself in behind Leahy on 15 minutes as Maher's long punt upfield was headed on by Mullen but the former Dundee man's side-footed effort bounced across the goalmouth and wide of the far post.
Maher produced an excellent save to deny Horgan's well struck volley from just inside the 18 yard box on 23 minutes.
Derry's best chance of the half arrived just after the half hour mark when Patching sent Mullen racing down the right wing. The striker cut it back into the path of McMullan who ran into the box before returning the pass to his fellow Scot but Mullen's strike on the turn sailed high over the bar from inside the six yard box.
Maher was called into action once again five minutes before the break when Horgan's corner towards the back post was met by a towering header from Hayden Muller which the Derry keeper palmed behind.
From the resultant corner from the opposite side Horgan found Pat Hoban this time at the far post and the Dundalk striker headed narrowly over the bar.
Derry hit the front on 42 minutes when McMullan played into the path of Patching inside the box and the former Dundalk midfielder took a touch and played the ball off the outstretched hand of Connor Malley. There were muted calls for a penalty from the Derry bench but Patching reacted quickest to the second ball and slotted neatly into the corner of the net.
Sixty seconds later in Tallaght Lee Grace put Shamrock Rovers ahead in the Dublin derby against Bohemians.Derry should've added a second moments later when McMullan, one of Derry's bright sparks in the first half, crossed towards Ben Doherty at the far post but the Culmore man fired high over the bar from close range.
Doherty made amends 60 seconds into the second half as he reacted quickest to the loose ball when Nathan Sheppard saved brilliantly from Patching's 12 yard strike, as he tucked the ball home for his fifth goal of the season.
It was the perfect start for Higgins' troops but five minutes later down at Tallaght Ronan Finn had doubled Rovers' lead against Bohs.Dundalk came so close to pulling one back on 52 minutes when Daniel Kelly swung in an inviting cross from the right wing and Hoban rose to meet it but crashed his header off the post.
Maher produced an acrobatic save to deny Finnish midfielder Johanns Yli-Kokko's header from Durrant's cross. Yli-Kokko crashed another strike from 20 yards off the underside of the post moments later before Hoban's follow-up effort was cleared by Shane McEleney as Derry held on.Hoban's goalbound header from a corner on 65 minutes was headed off the line by Ciaran Coll as the pressure mounted on the visitors.
Shane McEleney's blushes were spared by Maher after his sliced clearance was parried behind by the Derry keeper at the near post.At the other end Kelly bundled over Patching inside the penalty area and referee Damien MacGraith pointed to the spot. Patching stepped up to dispatch the spotkick into the bottom corner to stretch Derry's lead to three.
Five minutes later in south Dublin, Dylan Watts extended Rovers' lead to three over Bohemians.Substitute Robbie McCourt's well hit effort from outside the box on 89 minutes was palmed away by Maher at full stretch.
With six minutes of added time signalled, Dundalk finally got on the scoresheet with 60 seconds to play when McGonigle brought down Kelly inside the box. Hoban fired past Maher from the spot.Kelly's strike on the turn moments after the restart was tipped over the bar superbly by Maher as the game finished 3-1.
Dundalk: Sheppard; Davies, Muller, Brownlie (McCourt 60), Leahy, Durrant (Benson 79), Malley (Doyle 60), Kelly, Tli-Kokko (Lewis 70), Horgan; Hoban; Subs Not Used -Sloggett, Cherrie, Elliott, Mountney, Mullen.
Derry City: Maher; Coll, S. McEleney, Todd (McEneff 73), McJannet; McMullan, Patching, P. McEleney (B. Kavanagh 81), O'Reilly, Doherty; Mullen (McGonigle 64); Subs Not Used - Ryan, Duffy, C. Kavanagh, McGinty, McCay.
Referee - Damien MacGraith