Dundalk 6 Drogheda United 0
Richie Towell hit four goals as Dundalk moved 11 points clear of the chasing pack by putting 10-man Drogheda United to the sword in the 159th Louth derby at Oriel Park.
Daryl Horgan’s 10th of the season gave Stephen Kenny’s side a half-time lead and the champions-elect moved through the gears in the second half in front of a raucous 3,207 crowd.
The result leaves Dundalk on the brink of retaining their league crown and they need just two wins and a draw from their remaining five games to secure back-to-back titles for the first time in the club’s history.
For their neighbours in the south of the county, the relegation dogfight continues.
In truth, Mark Kinsella's side never looked like troubling the hosts but they will point to the harsh 56th-minute dismissal of Jason Marks as the moment their fate was sealed.
As expected, it was Dundalk who controlled the first half but they lacked real penetration in the final third until a flash of quality led to the opening goal in the 28th minute.
Towell picked up Brian Gartland's neat pass before taking a step away from Alan Byrne. It looked like the angle was too much for the midfielder but his cutback was inch-perfect for Horgan to sweep home.
If the first half was forgettable, the second was anything but, especially from a Dundalk point of view.
Horgan turned provider for Towell for the second goal in the 49th minute, the midfielder arrowing a 25-yard drive into Micheál Schlingermann’s bottom right-hand corner.
After Marks's dismissal it was exhibition stuff from Kenny's scintillating side. Goal number three arrived in the 59th minute when Towell coolly dispatched his 19th of the campaign after Schlingermann had upended David McMillan, who had found himself bearing down on goal from Darren Meenan's through ball.
McMillan got the goal his play deserved when he wrapped his right foot around the ball to find the top corner in the 73rd minute and the icing was put on the cake three minutes later when Towell notched his 20th of the season in all competitions, brilliantly steering home after a surging run by Gannon.
The midfielder made it six when he drove home after good work by substitute John Mountney. Dundalk were denied a repeat of last year's demolition derby scoreline, when they beat Drogheda 7-0, when Schlingermann made a fabulous save to deny Towell again in stoppage time.
DUNDALK: Rogers, Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey, Towell, Shields, Meenan (Mountney 73), Finn (Maguire 81), Horgan, McMillan (Kilduff 77).
DROGHEDA UNITED: Schlingermann, Maher, Byrne, O'Reilly, Gorman, Daly, Thornton (Hughes 69), Whelan, Tracey (Duffy 57), Marks, Brennan (Bayly 61).
Referee: Robert Rogers.