In a game of few chances, both sides finished the encounter with 10 men in a match which saw 11 yellow cards produced by referee Pádraig Sutton, including second yellows for both Chris Shields and Conor McCormack.
Both teams came into the game with four wins from five matches but it was the champions who hit the ground running when they took the lead after just four minutes. Following good work on the left by Dane Massey and Ronan Finn, David McMillan did well to create space for himself to fire left-footed to the bottom right hand corner of the net.
With the wind in their sails Stephen Kenny’s men pressed hard for a second with Brian Gartland going close with a header on eight minutes that was blocked on its way to goal by McMillan. Daryl Horgan then went close with a long range drive that flashed inches the wrong side of the post.
When Gartland went close with another header on 16 minutes though, the chances dried up with neither team producing a chance of note for the remainder of the half.
Prior to that all Derry had to offer was two shots from distance that never really threatened to trouble Gary Rogers.
In truth, Dundalk always looked in control but the visitors were thrown a lifeline 10 minutes after the restart when Shields – who had moments earlier attempted either side’s first shot in 35 minutes with a wild effort from range - picked up his second yellow in the space of five minutes for a foul on Rory Patterson.
The Derry striker would then have a major role to play in his side’s equaliser on 67 minutes. After breaking clear on the right his shot came back off the left hand upright but Barry McNamee was on hand to slot home the rebound to level matters.
Dundalk did almost respond immediately when Horgan’s cross from the left was flicked on by man of the match Finn but it never really had the power to beat Ger Doherty.
Kenny Shiels’ side’s hopes of pushing for a winner were hit on 75 minutes though when Louth man McCormack picked up a second yellow of his own for a foul on McMillan. The red card that followed was his third in as many matches at Oriel Park.
Dundalk then pushed for a winner in the closing stages with substitute Patrick McEleney being denied by Doherty before the goalkeeper came to his side’s rescue once more with a super stop in the 87th minute to keep Stephen O’Donnell’s diving header from Horgan’s cross out.
The result means the champions have taken just four points from a possible nine in their three home matches and boss Stephen Kenny will know that form must improve if they are to push for three in-a-row this season.
Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Meenan (McEleney 78), Shields, O’Donnell, Horgan; Finn, McMillan (Kilduff 78).
Doherty; Vemmelund, Barry, McBride, Jarvis; McEneff (Ward 65), McCormack, Monaghan, McGlynn (Curtis 14); McNamee; Patterson.
P Sutton (Clare).