Cavan 0-11 Cork 0-15: Triple Ulster champions Cavan were edged out in a drama-loaded crescendo in this All-Ireland semi-final at O'Connor Park, Tullamore.
A late revival left a scenario of Enda Reilly – substituted merely 14 minutes before – being brought back on to attempt a difficult free-kick into the wind to level matters.
The shot drifted wide, gifting Cork their first All-Ireland final appearance – against from three successive semi-finals.
With three points from play, Reilly had been a lively presence in the forward line and his substitution puzzled many.
Manager Peter Reilly defended the decision to replace him, saying: "We have a fairly strong panel and we mixed it up to try and shake the thing up. We got him back on to take the left-footed free and he took it, fair dues to him, but the wind took it away.
"It was a very difficult free but he was probably the best man we had to take it."
Cork had looked the stronger side for most of the match until Chris Conroy turned in a ball driven across the face of the Cork goal by Killian Clarke with six minutes left.
A point by Conor Moynagh in injury-time drew Cavan level, but in a Cork foray forward, goalkeeper Conor Gilsenan left his goal-line and committed a rash challenge on Luke Connolly as the ball was drifting wide.
Dan MacEoin slotted the free over before the final play of the game which ended with that spurned free.
"We wouldn't have been proud of our performance for the first 50 minutes but after that we took off," was Peter Reilly's assessment.
"Cork are a good team and they could have dominated on the scoreboard. But in the end it could have gone either way.
"If we had have won that breaking ball Cork got the last score out of, then we might have won. But that's the luck of the draw."
With the Under-21 dream over, Cavan attentions now turn towards the senior Ulster Championship preliminary round clash against Armagh in Breffni Park on May 19.
It was on Reilly's mind and he said: "We hope that this last three (Ulster titles) in a row will transfer into senior success. There is no guarantee, we would have loved to put an All-Ireland onto it, but that's not going to happen now."
Cork now go on to face Galway, who upset Kildare in the other semi-final 2-10 to 2-5.
CAVAN: C Gilsenan; J McLoughlin, K Clarke, C Brady; D McVeety (0-1), D Sexton, F Flanagan (Captain); B Sankey, M Argue; G Smyth, C Conroy (1-0), T Mooney (0-1); E Reilly (0-3), P O'Connor (0-2), J Brady (0-2, 1f)
Subs: C Moynagh (0-1) for Sexton, P Graham for Mooney (37m), C Madden (0-1) for E Reilly (48m), J Dillon for Conroy (56m), E Reilly for O'Connor (63m)
CORK: D Hanrahan; C Dorman, D Cahalane (0-1, 1x '45') (Captain), A Cronin; B O'Driscoll (0-2), T Clancy, J Wall; S Kiely, I Maguire; A Cadogan (0-1), M Sugrue (0-3), J O'Rourke; D MacEoin (0-4, 3f), B Hurley (0-2), L Connolly (0-2)
Subs: C Vaughan for Cadogan (56m), TJ Brosnan for Clancy (59m), J Burns for Maguire (62m)
Referee: Liam Devenney (Mayo)