The “preferred bidder” to save the Leesiders, Tom Coughlan, shuffled into a seat about seven rows back from the City dugout well into the second half.
His low-key entrance was a bit mis-timed because, unless he had been elsewhere in the ground up until that point, he had already missed all the real action.
After a flurry of activity either side of the quarter hour mark, the home side had grabbed their only two goals of the night, a Lawrie Dudfield tap-in and a Denis Behan penalty.
With Joe Gamble and Colin Healy suspended, and Sean Kelly carrying a knock, Alan Mathews made four personnel changes from the side that beat Dungannon on Monday, with Michael Devine, Neal Horgan, Darragh Ryan and Billy Woods returning to action, the latter starting for the first time in the league this season.
It led to the unorthodox measures of pint-sized full-back Danny Murphy partnering regular centre-back Dan Murray and pint-sized winger Liam Kearney partnering fairly regular central midfielder Darren Murphy in and around the centre circle.
Meanwhile, Shane McFaul missed out for UCD, the influential midfielder ruled out with a chest infection, while Ronan Finn was another absentee, the two midfielders’ replaced by Brian King and Shane Fitzgerald.
The visitors made a brave start, their superior pace causing trouble for City’s makeshift defence but only Brian King’s sixth minute shot from distance came close to troubling Devine.
It was the sort of cage rattling you’d expect from relegation battlers but as early as the 13th minute the hosts had asserted their authority.
Kearney was by this stage revelling in his new role and, after creating a bit of space for himself 20 yards out, he unleashed a 20 yard shot that forced Matt Gregg to palm the ball away for a corner.
Ryan stepped up to take it and a half clearance was sent goalward by Dan Murray, helped on by eventual man-of-the-match Darren Murphy and tapped home by Dudfield.
Within three minutes the advantage was doubled, thanks largely to the goalscorer. A well-weighted defence-splitting Ryan pass found the English striker just to the left of the College area, he carried the ball forward before a clever extra touch drew an Alan McNally foul, the visiting centre-back receiving a yellow card that added salt to the wound that was Behan’s converted penalty.
If anything, UCD dominated first 20 or so minutes of a scrappy restart. Shane Duggan had a tame shot saved in the 58th minute before his quick thinking in the 62nd minute saw his lob from distance almost outsmart the back-pedalling Devine. It was a moment that brightened the dullness of proceedings, thus drawing warm applause from sections of the home crowd.
Given the depleted nature of the City squad, Mathews got experimental with his line-up, possibly with a view to the long trip to the Brandywell in three days time. He withdrew the highly impressive Kearney for Timmy Kiely who slotted in on the right wing instead of Alan O’Connor. O’Connor pushed up front instead of Behan who was pulled into the middle of the park.
Aside from the odd half-chance, it was a card shuffle which yielded little more than consolidation of the two goal cushion, holding the almost certainly doomed UCD at arm’s length as the clock ticked away to a solid victory that will set Mathews and his charges up for Derry on Tuesday evening.
CORK CITY: M Devine; N Horgan, D Murray (capt), Danny Murphy, B Woods; A O’Connor, Darren Murphy, L Kearney, D Ryan; L Dudfield, D Behan. Subs: T Kiely for Kearney (66); G Cambridge for Dudfield (72).
UCD: M Gregg; A Mahon, A McNally, C Kenna (capt), I Bermingham; S Fitzgerald, B King, S Duggan, D Meenan; P McWalter, T Purcell. Subs: G Bolger for Duggan (80); B Shortall for King (87); D McMillan for Purcell (89).
Referee:N Doyle (Dublin).