MARK Vaughan dragged Kilmacud Crokes back from the brink and into the last four of the Leinster club SFC with a sensational late goal at Parnell Park.
The county forward turned in arguably his finest display yet for the Stillorgan outfit to book a semi-final match up with Meath champions Navan O’Mahony’s on Sunday week.
The bleached blond haired forward swooped for 1-8, including some stunning kicks, but his goal four minutes from time was the strike that decided this pulsating tie.
Leading by seven points at one stage Crokes were pegged back and dramatically trailed by one after an inspired fight-back from the Louth champions.
That’s when Vaughan took control of proceedings, electing to shoot for goal from distance in the 56th minute and hitting the net with a perfectly-executed low drive when many expected him to turn over the equalising point.
The strike put Crokes two clear and back-to-back scores from Brian Kavanagh soon after sealed a slightly flattering four-point win.
Longford star Kavanagh was excellent for Crokes and either scored or set-up six of the first-half points which helped them into a commanding early lead.
Vaughan though was the clear match winner with six converted frees, a point from play off either foot and a priceless goal that keeps the 2005 Leinster champions on course for another famous win.
"Mark Vaughan at times can be a much maligned footballer but I think people saw the character that’s in him out there," said Crokes manager Paddy Carr.
"He takes on the big challenges that other guys would shirk at. Other guys would have went for a point in the position he was in but he went for a wonderful goal and got it.
"No matter what you say, when a team gets a run on you it’s tough and at times you might as well be trying to hold the Liffey back with your two hands.
"But that’s the way sport is. It often comes down, like it did today, to who wants it most and once again we got the vital scores at the right times.
"Kilmacud is often known as a fine footballing side but there’s depth and heart and character there and that’s what you often need to win winter football games."
Shorn of the attacking talents of former Meath All-Ireland JFC winner Ian McManus and with county star Colm Judge requiring an injection to play after dislocating his shoulder, the Blues were always up against it.
The Drogheda outfit started slowly and trailed by six at half-time but came roaring back into the game in the final quarter with an unanswered 1-5 to lead by one before Vaughan’s rocket goal from 20 yards.
"If it had been someone else I think they’d have gone for a point," said Blues boss Eugene Judge of Vaughan’s strike.
"They probably felt that if they didn’t get that score they were going to pay for it. From our perspective the wrong man got the ball."
The slow start clearly cost the Drogheda-based Blues many of whose players were taught and coached in the past by Crokes boss Carr.
Kavanagh was inspired and set up free after free for Vaughan to convert while he hit two himself to put Crokes 0-9 to 0-3 up at the break.
When Vaughan followed up on a sublime left-footed point after the restart with a routine free to put Crokes 0-11 to 0-4 clear victory appeared a done deal.
But county men Judge and Hugh McGinn pointed for Blues before midfielder Brian Kermode pounced for a 51st-minute goal after a McGinn free came back off the post and suddenly there was just two between them.
Judge reduced the arrears with a sweet left footed point before back to back McGinn points, both under considerable pressure from Crokes defenders, put them ahead for the first time.
With just five minutes to go the Blues had the momentum but Crokes had Vaughan who did what he does best before Kavanagh’s late brace which sealed it.
KILMACUD CROKES: D Nestor; B McGrath, R O’Carroll, K Nolan; A Morrissey, P Griffin, C Lambe; D Magee, N Corkery; P Burke, M Davoren, R Cosgrove (0-1); M Vaughan (1-8; 6f), J Magee, B Kavanagh (0-4).
Subs: B O’Rorke for Cosgrove (51).
NEWTOWN BLUES: M Harte; T Costello, A O’Brien, N Costello; J Carr, R Hughes, E Judge; B Kermode (1-0), K Lynch; E Judge, C Reynolds, H McGinn (0-6); C Judge (0-3; 2f), B Sharkey, J Murray.
Subs: D Nugent for Hughes (20), S Moonan for Sharkey (h/t), B Philips for N Costello (42), J Kermode for Murray (48), I McManus for T Costello (60).
Referee: J Curley (Meath).