Garry Breen's goal eight minutes from time proved enough to keep Galway United at the summit of the League of Ireland as Simon Kelly's sending off on 73 minutes proved costly for the visitors. In truth, it was no more than Galway deserved as they attacked with more purpose following a turgid first half hour and could well have won by more than the narrow margin that prevailed.
Following last weeks narrow loss to Bohemians, Sean Connor kept faith with the same starting XI, with George O'Callaghan playing just behind striker Declan O'Brien. Galway, unsurprisingly, were also unchanged as Ian Foster looked to get his home campaign off to a winning start.
A gusty, swirling wind enveloped the ground in the run up to the game and made passing conditions difficult. With both sides playing identical formations, the centre midfield area became crucial. Dundalk enjoyed some early superiority, forcing two corners from which O'Callaghan failed to trouble the United defence with his deliveries.
Galway were trying to play the ball around the park, but struggled to find any fluency in the opening spell. Their early forages forward amounted to some hopeful through balls that Chris Bennion and his defence dealt with comfortably. Chris Turner tried his luck from distance with a free on 23 minutes, but it was never troubling Barry Ryan and flew wide.
With half an hour gone the Galway faithful, buoyed by the reports of flowing, attacking football from Richmond Park, began to get a little restless. Galway were looking impotent in attack and Dundalk were beginning to find some space on the wings, but Harpal Singh's cross from the left was well dealt with by Shane Guthrie.
The game finally sprung to some sort of life in the last six minutes of the half. Dave Rogers provided a good overlap for Harpal Singh and the full-back's teasing cross was swatted away by Ryan, with O'Callaghan looming at the back post. Galway replied with two efforts that should have supplied the opening goal.
On 42, Sean Kelly's free kick was nodded on by Jay O'Shea in a crowded penalty area. Derek O'Brien appeared at the back post and flashed a shot off the underside of the bar. The crowd appealed in vain that the ball had crossed the line, but a linesman's flag for offside made the claims irrelevant. Within a minute, Rogers had picked up a yellow card for cynically hacking down O'Shea.
Then, in the dying seconds of the half, Cian McBrien chased a long ball from Seamus Conneely and was suddenly in the clear. McBrien advanced to the edge of the area but his well struck shot was kept out at the near post by Bennion's diving save.
Galway kept up their attacking intent early in the second half. A swift break involving O'Shea and Faherty ended with Michael McGrath volleying wide from the left of the area. Moments later O'Shea again was involved as his cross from the right flank was headed athletically onto the bar by Faherty. The Westerners were now very much in the ascendancy.
Dundalk responded by forcing three corners in quick succession but, again, Galway defended resolutely and continued to look the more dangerous on the ball. Six offside decisions - all given against attackers down the left flank for Galway - frustrated the natives as at least four looked marginal.
The visitors finally managed a shot on goal in the 69th minute when Singh volleyed well and truly wide from inside the box. Galway were then handed a man advantage for the final 17 minutes when Simon Kelly picked up his second yellow; both were for crude challenges on Derek O'Brien.
Connor was hence forced into replacing his half-time sub, Tiarnan Mulvenna, with another in the shape of Michael McGinley as they now looked to hold out for a draw. It was to prove a fruitless exercise as Breen popped up in the box with eight minutes left and prodded home from close range after Sean Kelly had flicked on Jay O'Shea's free from the right wing.
An anxious three minutes of stoppage time awaited the Terryland crowd before they could acclaim the victors, but the result was never in doubt, and could well have been healthier had O'Brien and substitute Alan Murphy converted gilt-edged chances in stoppage time.
Galway United: Barry Ryan; Seamus Conneely, Shane Guthrie, Garry Breen, Iarfhlaith Davoren; Jay O'Shea, Michael McGrath, Cian McBrien (Declan Edwards, 76), Sean Kelly, Derek O'Brien; Vinny Faherty (Alan Murphy, 85).
Subs not used: Ger Hanley, Paul Sinnott, Jason Molloy.
Dundalk: Chris Bennion; Simon Kelly, Thomas Heary, Liam Burns, Dave Rogers; Shaun Kelly (Tiarnan Mulvenna 46 (Michael McGinley 76)), Chris Turner, George O'Callaghan, Michael Daly, Harpal Singh; Declan O'Brien (Darren Mansaram 46).
Subs not used: Dwight Barnett, Ryan Coulter.
Referee: Mark Gough.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Garry Breen (Galway United) - rock solid at the back and the winning goal.