Dragons (10) 27
Tries: Bearman, Gomer Davies, Thomas. Cons: Arlidge 3. Pens: Arlidge 2.
Connacht (0) 14
Tries: Carr, Matthews. Cons: Keatley 2.
Dragons number eight Joe Bearman capped a fine game with a try
Newport Gwent Dragons claimed a vital win over Connacht to boost their odds of avoiding a play-off against an Italian side for a Heineken Cup place.
The Rodney Parade victory paid back a 39-17 loss at Connacht three weeks ago and saw Dragons close on the Welsh teams above them in the Magners League.
Joe Bearman, Rhodri Gomer Davies and Rhys Thomas all crossed for Dragons.
Fionn Carr and Keith Matthews replied for Connacht but their pack struggled all match against a strong home eight.
Dragons had the first sniff of points thanks to Richard Fussell making ground down the left wing and Connacht giving up a penalty in their haste to steal the ball.
Arlidge missed that pot at goal but the fly-half created another opportunity when he charged down a clearance kick from opposite number Ian Keatley.
Gavin Duffy did well to field the loose ball but could not escape Arlidge following up with a smothering tackle that left the full-back with no choice but to hang onto the ball.
Happy with the win but gutted about [missing] the bonus point, we really needed that
Dragons number eight Joe Bearman
Dragons opted to kick for the attacking line-out and Bearman charged over the line, only for a crashing challenge by Matthews to knock loose the ball at the crucial moment.
The Dragons at last got the points their dominance deserved with an Arlidge penalty just over the half-hour mark.
The home side had stretched their advantage by the break when Luke Charteris soared at a five-metre line-out and slipped the ball to Bearman who this time made no mistake, Arlidge converting for 10-0.
Connacht were weakened after the restart as referee Graham Knox lost patience with continuing infringements and sent captain Duffy to the sin-bin.
The even-handed official was soon meting out the same punishment to Dragons centre Gomer Davies, although Connacht's Keatley missed the resulting penalty.
But wing Carr got Connacht back into the game as he motored through a gap in the Dragons line and stepped far too easily inside Jason Tovey to score under the posts, Keatley converting.
Dragons hit back when Gomer Davies, now back on the pitch, charged through Niva Ta'auso, then prop Thomas broke off a maul to barge over.
Arlidge stroked both conversions and added a long-range penalty to give the Dragons a very handy 27-7 lead with 10 minutes to go at Rodney Parade.
Carr's chip and chase allowed Matthews to polish off a sweeping counter-attack that Keatley converted to give Connacht hope.
But Carr's late sin-binning denied the Irish one of their chief attacking threats and Dragons held on for an important win, which will have the Scarlets and Cardiff Blues looking over their shoulders.
With Connacht now seemingly set to finish bottom of the league, the lowest placed Welsh team will face a play-off against the third-placed Italian side for a place in next season's Heineken Cup.
Dragons are now just a point behind the Blues and Scarlets, although they could yet rue missing out on a fourth try to claim a bonus point.
But they play both their rival Welsh regions in the next fortnight and the Dragons' fate is in their own hands.
Dragons number eight Joe Bearman:
"We were quite happy with the second half but we still let an early try in.
"That's our weakness at the moment - straight after the half-time we always let stupid tries in.
"Happy with the win but gutted about [missing] the bonus point, we really needed that."
Dragons: Jason Tovey; Gareth Wyatt, Rhodri Gomer Davies, Ashley Smith, Richard Fussell; James Arlidge, Wayne Evans; Adam Black, Tom Willis (capt), Rhys Thomas, Hoani Macdonald, Luke Charteris, Danny Lydiate, Richard Parks, Joe Bearman.
Replacements: Steve Jones, Nigel Hall for Black (75), Andrew Hall, Lewis Evans for Parks (75), Martyn Thomas, Rory Sidey, Alex Walker for W. Evans (77).
Connacht: G Duffy (capt); F Carr, N Ta'auso, K Matthews, L Bibo; I Keatley, F Murphy; B Wilkinson, S Cronin, B McGovern; M Swift, A Farley; A Browne, J O'Connor, R Ofisa.
Replacements: A Flavin for Cronin (55), R Loughney for McGovern (62), D Gannon for Farley (74), C Rigney, C O'Loughlin for Murphy (68), A Dunne for Matthews (75), T Nathan for Bibo (74).
Referee: G Knox (Scotland).