Coming into the game on the back of a 3-0 defeat to Cork City, which seen them fall six points off the pace, Stephen Kenny’s side got back to winning ways with goals from David McMillan and Michael Duffy inside the opening 26 minutes setting them on their way.
Marc Griffin’s strike six minutes later had kept the Boynesiders just about in contention for a long stage but the dismissal of Ciaran McGuigan on 74 minutes followed by an immediate goal from Brian Gartland killed them off.
It was Drogheda who had the best opening in the early stages. On seven minutes Gareth McCaffrey got behind Dane Massey on the right but Gary Rogers bailed his full-back out with a good save at close range.
Massey went close again on 19 minutes before turning provider for the opening goal a minute later — the left back’s cross being glanced home by McMillan.
McMillan then went close with another header on 25 minutes but Stephen McGuinness got down well to his right to palm the effort clear.
They did make it 2-0 a minute later though when McMillan turned provider with a low cross from the left that was swept home by Duffy at his near post.
Given that two of the last three Louth derbies at Oriel Park have finished 7-0 and 6-0 in the home side’s favour, at that stage you could have been forgiven for fearing for Pete Mahon’s side.
However, Marc Griffin threw his side a lifeline against his hometown club when he profited from Rogers misjudging Colm Deasy’s cross from the right on 32 minutes to slot to the far corner from an acute angle.
That goal temporarily rattled the champions who suffered a blow shortly after the restart when Sean Gannon was stretchered off.
They had two good opportunities to restore their two goal advantage early in the second half only for McMillan to blaze over from close range and Thomas Stewart to chip wide with only McGuinness to beat.
Drogheda were hanging in there but their hopes of an equaliser suffered a huge blow on 72 minutes when McGuigan, who had been booked just seven minutes earlier, was sent off after picking up a second yellow card for a late challenge on Shields.
That would prove the fatal blow as from the resulting free kick Dundalk would kill the game off. Clifford played it short to McMillan at the edge of the area. Despite scuffing his shot, it was seized upon by Gartland who controlled before finishing to the bottom right hand corner to seal the victory.
Rogers; Gannon (Barrett 50), Gartland, Vemmelund, Massey; McGrath, Clifford, Shields (Hoare 85), Duffy; Stewart; McMillan (Kinsella 86).
McGuinness; Deasy, Gallagher, McGuigan, Dunne; Thornton (McEvoy 77), Purdy, S Brennan (Hyland 60), McCaffrey, G Brennan; Griffin (Elliott 66).
B Connolly (Dublin).