Galway 1-15 Derry 1-11
Galway fielded the fresher-faced team at Celtic Park, but Alan Mulholland's charges showed grace under pressure to close out a well-earned victory against an out-of-sorts Derry.
Having seen Derry claw their way back to within a point with eight minutes remaining, the Tribesmen settled themselves and four coolly taken scores from Michael Martin, Cathal Kenny and Nicky Joyce (two) gave them a somewhat unexpected victory.
The result was well deserved for the Connacht men, who laid the groundwork in the first half.
Having trailed by 1-3 to 0-3 after Cailean O'Boyle's fisted goal on 17 minutes, Mulholland's side dominated the second quarter during which they outscored the Oak Leafers by 1-5 to 0-1.
Through this spell, the Derry defence was run ragged, with Galway wing-backs Gareth Bradshaw and Gary O'Donnell raiding forward to open up gaps.
Points from the excellent Micheal Martin and Mark O'Hehir had closed the gap by the time O'Donnell fed Bradshaw to step inside Derry goalkeeper Danny Devlin and blast home on 29 minutes.
With Joyce finding the range that would bring him five points over the 70 minutes and Bradshaw and Martin again raising the white flag, Galway led by 1-8 to 1-4 at the break.
Derry enjoyed their best spell after the break as scores from Mark Lynch and Chrissy McKaigue closed the gap.
With O'Boyle giving Galway full-back Finian Hanley a tough time under the high ball, Derry battled back as goalkeeper Danny Devlin slotted a '45' and O'Boyle kicked three points (two frees).
Joyce (two) and Hehir (free) kept Galway just in front, but the momentum looked to have swung Derry's favour as they closed the margin to 1-11 to 1-10.
But with Joe Bergin providing an injection of experience from the bench, Galway showed the composure of veterans.
Those four late points in response to a single Paddy Bradley free allowed them to claim two hard-earned points and take a massive first step on what may be the road back to Division 1.
Man of the Match: Micheal Martin (Galway)
Scorers - Galway: M Martin (2f), N Joyce (1f) 0-5 each, G Bradshaw 1-1, M O Hehir 0-3 (3f), C Kenny 0-1f. Derry: C O'Boyle 1-4 (3f), C Gilligan 0-2 (1f), M Lynch, P Bradley (f), B McGoldrick, D Devlin ('45'), C McKaigue 0-1 each.
Galway - M Breathnach 6; C Forde 5, F Hanley 5, K Kelly 6; G Bradshaw 8, J Duane 6, G O'Donnell 7; T O'Flynn 7, F O Curraoin 6; J Ryan 5, P Conroy 6, M Hehir 6; M Martin 9, N Joyce 8, D Cummins 6. Subs: G Sice 6 for Ryan (h-t), J Bergin 6 for Hehir (58), C Kenny 6 for Conroy (58).
Derry - D Devlin 5; B McCallion 6, L Morrow 5, R Dillon 4; C McKaigue 5, M Craig 5, SL McGoldrick 6; J Conway 6, J Diver 6; B McGoldrick 6, M Lynch 5, M Bateson 5; C O'Boyle 8, Paddy Bradley 5, C Gilligan 5. Subs: C Kielt 6 for B McGoldrick (5), B Doyle 6 for Craig (25), C Murray 6 for Dillon (h-t), E Lynn 6 for Gilligan (42), PJ McCloskey 5 for Diver (59).
Ref - M Duffy (Sligo).