Donegal have negotiated their first hurdle in the Super 8s.
They defeated Meath by 2-19 to 1-13 at sun-kissed MacCumhaill Park.
Donegal deservedly led at half-time but they had to endure a tricky third quarter that saw the Royal County coming right back into the game and even leading at one stage.
But Donegal were able to lift their game and inspired by Ryan McHugh and Patrick McBrearty they saw it out to collect the points. Shaun Patton was once again also a key figure for the Declan Bonner managed side.
And in the end they were comfortable winners.
Played in warm conditions on a fine day beside the banks of the River Finn, this was an absorbing contest.
Donegal led by 1-9 to 0-8 at the break.
Although Meath opened the scoring through Cillian O'Sullivan, Jamie Brennan got the equalising point and by the 11th minute they had stretched the lead out to 0-5 to 0-2 with Brennan again on target.
Meath kept plugging away and trailed by 0-6 to 0-5 when Donegal scored a goal from play through Patrick McBrearty on his 100th appearance for the county.
Niall O'Donnell pointed to make it 1-7 to 0-5 after 27 minutes but Meath were still in contact at the interval.
Donegal had only two wides in the first half.
Meath has a goal chance just at the start of the third quarter and shortly afterwards thought they had scored only to see that it was deemed to be a square ball with Donegal leading by 1-10 to 0-9 at that stage.
Patrick McBrearty then scored an important point to push Donegal's lead out to five.
But play swung to the other end and Meath were awarded a penalty after Donal Keogan was deemed to have been fouled. Substitute Daire O'Baoill was subsequently given a yellow card.
Mickey Newman scored from the penalty and suddenly it really was game on, with the the Royal county trailing by two, 1-11 to 1-9.
The Leinster side then struck with two quick points from Bryan McMahon and Bryan Menton to bring the sides level at 1-11 apiece with 12 minutes gone in the second half.
Seven minutes later, Meath took the lead - for only the second time in the game - with Darragh Campion slotting the ball over.
Meath's Shane Gallagher was then given a black card for a rash challenge on Eoin McHugh, and was perhaps fortunate not to have seen red.
Donegal, though, responded with Patrick McBrearty and Ryan McHugh both scoring as Donegal went back in front, by 1-13 to 1-12 but Shane McEntee stormed through the home defence to bring the sides level again.
It was end to end stuff now with the game in the melting pot.
Donegal went back into the lead through Jamie Brennan while substitute Oisin Gallagher, the MacCumhaill's man pointed to make it 1-15 to 1-13 with 24 minutes gone of the second half.
And when Patrick McBrearty slotted over a free to make it a three point lead, it looked as if the Meath revival had been overcome, with Ryan McHugh to the fore for Donegal.
Meath had a penalty plea dismissed before McBrearty then fired over another point after a fine sweeping move and the home fans sensed that they were back on the road to victory.
With Frank McGlynn on to steady the ship, Meath went into the final stages knowing they needed some real magic to trouble Donegal again.
But Donegal finished well and Andrew Colgan made a decent save to thwart another goal chance for Donegal.
Michael Murphy got a decent point as the game went onto stoppage time to increase the margin to five points and moments later Gallen burst through the Meath defence to slam the ball into the net after good work by Eoin McHugh and McGlynn.
Eoin McHugh got the final point to give Donegal victory by nine points, but Meath will have left wondering how they faded so much in the closing stages.
Indeed, Meath will feel that the final scoreline was a bit flattering for Donegal.
In the end Donegal came good and key players stepped up to the mark. The hope is that they will have learned again from this.
Next up for Donegal is a clash against Kerry.
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Paul Brennan, Neil McGee, Stephen McMenamin; Ryan McHugh, Odhran McFadden-Ferry, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Hugh McFadden, Jason McGee; Ciaran Thompson, Niall O'Donnell, Jamie Brennan; Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Michael Langan.
Meath: Andrew Colgan, Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Shane Gallagher; Donal Keogan, Padraic Harnan, Gavin McCoy; Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee; Ethan Devine, Bryan McMahom, James McEntee; Cillian O'Sullivan, Michael Newman, James Conlon.
Referee: Conor Lane.
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