Donegal dig deep and draw on all their experience to halt Meath
Donegal 2-19 Meath 1-13
Experience was the order of the day as Donegal came from behind to overcome Meath.
When substitute Darragh Campion clipped over with 16 minutes to go, Meath had the lead and the nerves whistled through MacCumhaill Park.
From there to the finish, Donegal scored 1-8, including a goal from teenager Oisin Gallen, with Shane McEntee's point all that Meath could muster and they left licking the wounds of a nine-point loss.
Patrick McBrearty, who was, at just 25 years of age, making his 100th Donegal appearance, kicked 1-6 for Donegal.
There was no stopping McBrearty's 25th minute goal. The Kilcar man thundered home after Ciaran Thompson put him away having claimed a Shaun Patton kick-out.
"It's vital that we won our home match and we go to Croke Park now next Sunday with two points in the bag," was the verdict of Donegal manager Declan Bonner.
"We'd have taken a one-point victory. The main objective here was to win. We had a home match first in the Super 8s so it was important that we got two points on the board."
Donegal led 1-9 to 0-8 at the break, but Meath hit back and Donegal were warned when Gavin McCoy slapped to the net after Patton saved from Bryan McMahon six minutes into the second half.
Meath inched back and Michael Newman hammered in a penalty to stir them into comeback mode.
Campion put them in front, but Donegal - led by the omnipresent Michael Murphy, who was the Man of the Match - came good for a third win of 2019 over Meath.
Bonner said: "I thought we showed real character to come back. I thought the lads coming off the bench had a major contribution."
Andy McEntee, the Meath manager, cut a frustrated figure as he sighed: "A point up with 15 minutes to go does not get the job done so we would be very disappointed, but very proud and happy with the performance considering the amount of people who did not give us a chance. We put on a decent show.
"We had the momentum and we switched off for a second and we fell to a long kick out tactic which served them very well.
"We fell asleep, they got momentum and we struggled to get it back. That happened to us a couple of times against Donegal and that is down to the quality they have. They are hard to stop."
Donegal: S Patton; S McMenamin, N McGee, O McFadden-Ferry; R McHugh (0-2), P Brennan, E Gallagher; H McFadden, J McGee (0-1); C Thompson, N O'Donnell (0-1), M Langan (0-1); P McBrearty (1-6, 2f), M Murphy (0-3, 45), J Brennan (0-3). Subs: D O Baoill for P Brennan (43), E McHugh (0-1) and O Gallen (1-1) for Thompson and O'Donnell (49), F McGlynn for McGee (61), E Doherty for McFadden-Ferry (68), C Ward for McMenamin (70+1)
Meath: A Colgan, S Lavin, C McGill, S Gallagher; D Keogan, P Harnan, G McCoy; B Menton (0-2), S McEntee (0-1); E Devine, B McMahon (0-3), J McEntee (0-1); C O'Sullivan (0-2), M Newman (1-2, 1f, 1-0 pen), J Conlon (0-1). Subs: S Walsh for Conlon (43), Darragh Campion (0-1) for Devine (46), S Curran for Gallagher (b-c, 57), G Reilly for B McMahon (63), A Flanagan for S McEntee (66), T O'Reilly for O'Sullivan (70)
Referee: C Lane (Cork)