They may have diced with danger during spells of this lively Dr McKenna Cup first round tie at Kingspan Breffni last night but when Armagh applied the killer blow they did so in style.
It was Ross McQuillan who sent the Orchard County side home in good spirits with an injury-time goal that not only eased his side to victory but paved the way for what will be an interesting outing against All-Ireland champions Tyrone in the next round.
Yet manager Kieran McGeeney was provided with plenty of food for thought as his team sought to find their rhythm in the early stages before surrendering the initiative to the home side in the third quarter and then finally retrieving the situation through McQuillan’s opportunist goal.
Yet Armagh showed a marked tendency to make things hard for themselves, particularly in the first-half.
Cavan may have drawn first blood with a brace of points from Patrick Lynch and Gearoid McKiernan but the orchard county, despite their dominance in the air and clever support play, still contrived to shoot nine wides before the half-way stage had been reached.
Indeed, the hosts’ early accuracy initially appeared to bode well for them last night but when Ciaran Mackin, Aidan Forker and Stephen Sheridan hit the target Armagh began to carry a much bigger threat going forward.
With Sheridan and Niall Grimley busying themselves in midfield and both Jemar Hall and Rory Grugan menacing when in possession, Kieran McGeeney’s men acquired a degree of comfort that had been conspicuous by its absence up until then.
And when Jarly Og Burns, Hall and Grugan hoisted over points, the Orchard County side had transformed their early deficit into a 0-6 to 0-3 advantage at half-time by which stage the Cavan defence was beginning to look vulnerable.
But within a matter of minutes of the restart, Cavan were back on terms and suddenly Armagh’s new-found poise deserted them as the home side clambered back on level terms with Smith, McKiernan and Conor Madden all on target.
With both sides drawing on their substitutes, the stage was set for a frenzied finish with the sides deadlocked at 0-10 each.
But Grugan offered Armagh hope when he pointed a late free only for Cavan to get back on terms yet again, but in an explosive period of added time it was McQuillan to made the most of the opportunity that came his way to tuck the ball into the Cavan net for the only goal of the game.
He may have occupied a place on the bench for the greater part of the action but McQuillan is likely to see rather more in the forthcoming joust with the All-Ireland champions – a match that Orchard County fans will embrace enthusiastically at this point in time.
Cavan: R Galligan 0-1 (f); E Finnegan, K Brady, L Fortune; O Kernan, C Conroy, J McLoughlin; J Smith 0-2, M Argue; O Brady, G McKiernan 0-5 (2f), Cian Madden; Conor Madden 0-1, P Lynch 0-2 (2f), R O’Neill. Subs: T Galligan for O’Neill (32 mins), K Clarke for Argue (half-time), G Smith for Finnegan (45), Cormac O’Reilly for Conor Madden (58), Caoimhin O’Reilly for Conroy (60), F O’Reilly for O Brady (67).
Armagh: B Hughes; R Finn, A McKay, Ciaran Mackin 0-1; Connaire Mackin, G McCabe, J Og Burns 0-2; S Sheridan 0-1, N Grimley; J Hall 0-2, A Nugent 0-2, S Campbell; R Grugan 0-3 (f), R O’Neill, A Forker 0-1. Subs: C Turbitt for Faulkner (44), R McQuillan 1-0 for Hall (47), C O’Hanlon for Campbell (60)
Referee: Anthony Marron (Monaghan).