Shamrock Rovers' Aprilis horribilis continued as they were beaten out the gates by a hungrier and far superior Cork City side at Turner's Cross on Monday evening.
City netted twice in the opening 13 minutes to move within four points of first-placed Dundalk with goals from Steven Beattie and Karl Sheppard sealing a 2-0 win that could and should have been more emphatic.
Beattie took just 26 seconds to open the scoring as he took Greg Bolger's pass, turned inside Luke Byrne – making his first league start this season after recovering from injury – and drove low into the corner past Barry Murphy.
Beattie was to inflict further misery on Byrne minutes later as a heavy challenge left the full back writhing in pain, and he was withdrawn within 10 minutes, with Gavin Brennan reverting to the left-back position he's occupied since the opening day.
City exploited the disorganisation on the Rovers left-hand side as Michael McSweeney's throw was returned to him by Beattie, and from his cross Sheppard was allowed two bites of the cherry to volley a second past Murphy.
The visitors found themselves two goals behind without having played all that badly, but their confidence and shape disintegrated during a first period that could easily have seen the Leesiders double their advantage again.
Murphy was struggling to compete against the height of Alan Bennett from set-pieces, and he was lucky to have Pat Cregg to clear off the line after he dropped a City corner, though it appeared the Hoops' stand-in skipper used his hand.
He was beaten again when Maguire outjumped Dave Webster to play in Beattie again down the right, but this time the winger went across goal and missed the target.
Sheppard should have added his second of the game moments later when Beattie flashed the ball across the goal, but he miscontrolled with the goal gaping and Simon Madden was able to clear.
City's dominance was such that Bolger was moved to attempt an audacious lob from inside the centre circle, but it sailed over the bar with Murphy seemingly having got it covered.
Rovers' only real chances saw Gavin Brennan swing at the air from Dean Clarke's flick-on when he should have at least forced a save, while Brandon Miele skied a long-range free kick badly over.
The away side brought a modicum of fight to the contest after the break, and threatened first as Trevor Clarke outpaced Michael McSweeney down the left, but his shot from an angle just evaded the far post.
Dean Clarke had been isolated in the first half as Killian Brennan and Pat Cregg sat deep in midfield, but the elder Brennan played closer to the frontmen during the second half and brought Brandon Miele more into the game.
It was from Miele's corner, punched away by McNulty, that Trevor Clarke again shot towards goal, but Alan Bennett threw himself in the way to send the ball over the bar, and moments later Miele forced a comfortable save from distance.
As Rovers pressed, however, Maguire was left with more room in behind, and he terrorised David Webster, who struggled throughout with the former Waterford United striker's pace and skill.
Sheppard could have extended his tally when, after chesting a long punt down expertly, Maguire fed his partner, but the former Rovers man was halted by a desperate Webster challenge.
Bolger linked up again with Beattie, lofting a precise long ball over Brennan to play in the winger, but Murphy this time saved at his near post.
Gareth McCaffrey – who impressed after replacing Byrne early on – showed great persistence to beat Sheppard and Kevin O'Connor down the left before pulling back for Cregg, but the midfielder couldn't generate the power to beat McNulty.
It was to be the visitors' final opening of the game as Pat Fenlon's side finished the game as meekly as they'd started to leave the Dubliner feeling the most intense pressure of his 20-month reign to date.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Michael McSweeney, John Dunleavy, Alan Bennett, Kevin O'Connor; Greg Bolger (Colin Healy 90+1), Gary Buckley, Gearóid Morrissey (Gavan Holohan 90+1), Steven Beattie, Karl Sheppard (Danny Morrissey 89); Sean Maguire.
Subs not used: Alan Smith (gk), Ian Turner, Stephen Dooley, Mark O'Sullivan.
Booked: Karl Sheppard (29).
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden, David Webster, Max Blanchard, Luke Byrne (Gareth McCaffrey 10); Pat Cregg, Killian Brennan, Gavin Brennan, Trevor Clarke, Brandon Miele, Dean Clarke (Danny North 80).
Subs not used: Craig Hyland (gk), Rob Cornwall, Sean Heaney, Stephen McPhail, Michael Drennan.
Booked: Gavin Brennan (30), David Webster (60), Danny North (82).
Referee: James McKell.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Sean Maguire (Cork City).