Both sides displayed attacking endeavour in the early stages with Ronan Finn drifting a fourth-minute header wide from Gary McCabe’s corner while Kenny Browne’s looping effort from a Killian Brennan delivery was tipped over his crossbar by Barry Murphy two minutes later.
The high tempo was maintained with both Christy Fagan and Conor Powell cautioned within three minutes of each other while Daryl Kavanagh turned superbly in the 14th minute but his dipping shot was narrowly wide.
Somewhat against the run of play, the visitors broke the deadlock in the 16th minute as Finn timed his run to perfection when meeting an outswinging Powell cross with his glancing header from 10 yards placed perfectly inside Brendan Clarke’s post.
The hosts’ response was impressive and Kavanagh almost levelled matters within a minute as his jinking run down the left flank forced Murphy to scramble the ball to safety. However, the Hoops looked a far greater threat in attack, with the rejuvenated McCabe and Finn combining delightfully, with the former desperately unlucky to see his 20-yard shot whizz over Clarke’s crossbar on the half-hour mark.
Rovers’ pressure was incessant at this stage and after Clarke had repelled an arrowed Finn drive a minute later, a deserved second goal arrived in the 33rd minute as Shane Robinson volleyed acrobatically home from eight yards after Jason McGuinness had made contact with a Powell free-kick.
The contest became increasing tetchy as the half progressed as the visitors comfortably defended their advantage against a home side bereft of the composed interplay that has been a feature of their heretofore impressive campaign.
Unfortunately, the half-time interval failed to calm the protagonists with a 52nd minute altercation between Finn and substitute John Russell preceding a melee involving up to 15 players, with the aforementioned duo eventually cautioned for their incendiary roles.
Despite the fractured nature of the play, the hosts roused themselves and Murphy produced a superb save when palming a rising Ger O’Brien piledriver to safety in the 55th minute.
The Rovers netminder was again called into action nine minutes later as he produced heroics in thwarting Russell’s low drive from 20 yards as the Hoops focused on defending in numbers and hitting on the counter-attack.
Such a tactic almost bore fruition in the 65th minute as Clarke diverted McCabe’s volley onto his crossbar.
After Greg Bolger was dismissed after a coming together with McCabe in the 79th minute, both sides ended the contest with 10 men with Pat Sullivan following Bolger to the dressing room as the visitors cruised to victory.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Clarke; O’Brien, Kenna, Browne, Bermingham; Byrne, McFaul (Forrester, 39), Bolger, Brennan (Russell, 23), Kavanagh; Fagan (Flood, 82).
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Murphy; Sullivan, McGuinness, Oman, Powell; Finn (Sheppard, 66), Robinson, Ryan, Dennehy (O’Connor, 90+2); McCabe (McCormack, 87), Stewart.
Referee: Alan Kelly (Cork).