Waterford 0 Shamrock Rovers 1
Shamrock Rovers substitute Gary Shaw pounced for the winner with 15 minutes remaining against Waterford at the RSC to move the Hoops to within four points of the Blues.
The striker netted the solitary goal just two minutes after Alan Mannus made a brilliant save on his debut to deny Izzy Akinade the opener at the other end.
When Waterford failed to clear a corner, the ball was sprayed to Sam Bone on the right and his low cross enabled fellow substitute Shaw to stoop low with a diving header beyond Matt Connor.
Shaw, introduced nine minutes earlier along with Aaron Greene in a bid by manager Stephen Bradley to win the game, had just recovered from a head injury to score.
He should have added a second when clean through eight minutes from the end only for Connor to advance and smother the danger.
Waterford, too, went close to scoring, with Ikinade’s low shot from the edge of the box clipping the outside of the post.
Just 48 hours following Rovers’ return from Sweden, where they’d pushed AIK to extra-time before exiting the Europa League, Bradley freshened his team up with four changes.
Mannus made his bow, ending a sequence of six matches for teenager Gavin Bazunu, while Luke Byrne, Brandon Kavanagh and Roberto Lopes earned starts.
Lopes poked an effort wide early on from a Ronan Finn free-kick and Connor was forced into a double-save from Dylan Watts and Finn as the break approached.
For Waterford, Courtney Duffus was back from injury and went down in the box under a challenge by Kavanagh midway through the half but Rob Harvey waved away the appeals.
Alan Reynolds’s side improved after the interval without posing much of a threat, outside of Rory Feely’s header from a corner which sailed over.
There may be 10 games after this was a pivotal game for Rovers to gain ground and they showed their intent with the attacking double-substitution. It worked a treat as Shaw, very much a peripheral figure this season, was left unmarked to nod and inflict only the second home defeat on Waterford.
WATERFORD: M Connor; R Feely, K Browne, D Webster, D Barnett; P Keegan; S Aborah (S Puri 85), G Holohan (D Hutchinson 82), B Héry; I Ikinade, C Duffus (N Hunt 65).
SHAMROCK ROVERS: A Mannus; E Boyle (S Bone 13), L Grace, J O'Brien, L Byrne; G Bolger, D Watts; J Coustrain, R Finn, B Kavanagh (A Greene 63); D Carr (G Shaw 63).
Referee: Rob Harvey (Dublin)