Let $D(V, A)$ be a DAG. We call a dominated path in $D$ a path $P$ such that

$P$ is maximal and $\exists P^{'} \in D . (P^{'} \text{ is maximal } \wedge V(P) \subset V(P^{'}))$

that is, $P$ is a dominated path iff $P$ is maximal and there exists another path $P^{'}$, also maximal, containing all the nodes of $P$, along with at least one additional node. If such path $P^{'}$ doesn't exist, we say that $P$ is a non-dominated path. For instance, let's take the below example:

DAG example

The paths:

  • $(1, 5)$ is a dominated;
  • $(1, 6, 5)$ is a non-dominated;
  • $(1, 2, 4, 5)$ is a dominated; And
  • $(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)$ is a non-dominated.

My question is, how can we find all the non-dominated paths? Obviously, a straightforward solution would be to enumerate all maximal paths in $D$, and apply a dominance check to each retrieved path. However, I am trying to find a more efficient way of doing so, even if no "polynomiality" is possible.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Minor note: There can be exponentially many non-dominated paths, so in the worst case, any algorithm might have to take exponential time. $\endgroup$
    – D.W.
    Jan 3 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the observation. Yes, you are right. I was expecting this. However, the steps in the answer guarantee that any maximal path of the resulting graph will be a non-dominated one, which automaticaly removes the "wrong" options. $\endgroup$ Jan 4 at 23:21

1 Answer 1


After some hours of paper sketching, I think I could come up with somethig.

Let $P = (v_1, \dots, v_n)$ be a path in $D$. Then we have

Lemma 0: Any other permutation of $P$ results in an invalid path for $D$.

Proof: The replacement of $v_{j}$ by $v_{k}$ in $P$, such that $j < k$, resulting in the following permutation $(v_1, \dots, v_k, \dots, v_j, \dots, v_n)$, implies that the paths from $v_j$ to $v_k$ (as $P$ indicates), and from $v_k$ to $v_j$ (as the new permutation shows), exist simultaneously. What gives a contradition, since $D$ is a DAG.

Let $S_{k} = (v_k, \dots, v_{k + 1})$ be a path between $v_k$ and $v_{k + 1}$ in $D$, $\forall k \in \{1, \dots, n - 1\}$. Then

Lemma 1: $(v_1, \dots, v_{k-1}) \cap S_{k} = \emptyset$

Proof: If there exists a node $v_m \in (v_1, \dots, v_{k-1}) \cap S_{k}$, then there exists, simultaneously, paths from $v_k$ to $v_m$, and from $v_m$ to $v_k$, which forms a cycle. Thus, a contradiction, given the DAG property of $D$.

Lemma 2: $(v_{k + 2}, \dots, v_{n}) \cap S_{k} = \emptyset$

Proof: Same reasoning as above.

Corollary 1: Path $P^{'}$ dominates $P$ iff. $\exists_{k \in \{1,\dots,n - 1\}} (|S_k| > 2 \wedge P^{'} = (v_1,\dots,v_k)\cup (S_k \backslash \{v_k, v_{k + 1} \}) \cup (v_{k + 1}, \dots, v_n))$.

Proof: This is a consequence of Lemmas 0, 1, and 2. Because,

  1. According to Lemma 0, any path $P^{'}$ dominating $P$ would have to maintain the order of the nodes in the permutation given by $P$;
  2. According to Lemmas 1 and 2, any node inside $S_k$ (disregarding the endings), cannot belong to the dominated path $P$;
  3. Therefore, the only possible expansion for $P$, is to find a $S_k : |S_k| > 2$ and to append it accordingly in $P$, resulting in a $P^{'}$.

For instance, in the picture given above, we have that

enter image description here

$P^{'} = (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)$ dominates $P = (1, 2, 4, 5)$, since the extract $(2, 3, 4)$ can be appended to $P$. The same is valid for $(1, 6, 5)$ and $(1, 5)$.

Corollary 2: A path $P^{'} = (v_1, \dots, v_n)$ is a non-dominated path iff. $\nexists_{k \in \{1,\dots,n-1\}} (|S_k| > 2)$ and $P^{'}$ is maximal.

Proof: This is a consequence of Corollary 1.

Let $D_R$ be the transitive reduction of $D$, then:

Corollary 3: $P^{'}$ is a path in $D_R$ iff. $\nexists_{k \in \{1,\dots,n-1\}} (|S_k| > 2)$.

Proof: This is a consequence of the definition of transitive reduction.

Theorem 0: $P^{'}$ is non-dominated iff. $P^{'}$ is a maximal path in $D_R$.

Proof: Every arc of $P^{'}$ belongs to $D_R$.

Please, feel free to suggest and point corrections.


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