Winger Michael Brown bagged a try in each half as Clontarf ran out deserved 18-12 winners over Cork Constitution at Temple Hill in Ulster Bank League Division 1A.
With leaders UCD losing at Terenure the previous night, Clontarf succeeded in closing the gap at the summit to a single point as the avenged an October defeat to Cork Constitution.
Two penalties from out-half Joey Carbery after two and six minutes set them on their way, and Michael Brown's 22nd-minute converted try came from cleanly-won lineout possession and neat hands in the backs.
Playing into a strong wind, Darragh Lyons' penalty on the half hour mark opened Con's account as they trailed 13-3 at the interval. Two more penalties from the experienced number 10 had the Leesiders even closer just six minutes into the second half.
However, some crisp interplay between backs and forwards created the opening for Brown's 64th-minute score, and Con could only respond with a Lyons penalty two minutes from the end as 'Tarf's well-organised continued to frustrate them.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Clontarf head coach Andy Wood said: “When you come to Con, you know you're going to get a huge physical examination and we got that; we had to bring a bit of line speed to the game and it's pleasing when all that work pays off.
“We put a lot of pressure on them, particularly when they came around the corner at us. The last minutes were tough and we got a couple of good turnovers, but that was down to 'hammer and tongs' for the full 80.
“You had to be very precise as a ball carrier. We got some turnovers and probably the most crucial was just before half-time, when they were attacking our line.
“We are where we want to be, in the top four, but we've got Young Munster next week, and then Ballynahinch, who are scrapping for their lives, so that won't be easy, by any stretch of the imagination. We're counting on nothing.”
Cork Con skipper James Ryan admitted: “Look, we're disappointed, because it was a game we could have won. We should have scored before half-time, after applying a lot of pressure, and that would have made a difference.
“We got a harsh call on a scrum that was driving forward and it was a key point in the game. Overall, I was pleased with the forward effort, but we seemed to turn over a lot of ball.
“Look, I suppose this result has been the story of our season, in a sense. We haven't lost a game by more than seven. We've picked up losing bonus points in all the games we've lost, so that tells you how close it has been.”
Referee: Leo Colgan (IRFU)