By Paul Keane
Donegal 1-15 Meath 1-14
All-Ireland winner Patrick McBrearty showed all his big game experience with a dramatic 73rd minute winning point at Pairc Tailteann to send Donegal through to Round 4A of the qualifiers.
The corner-forward fired seven points on the evening and crowned an excellent display with the winner to break Meath hearts at the end of a frantic finale.
The sides were level a whopping 11 times throughout an entertaining game played between two sides keen to counter attack and hurt their opponents on the break.
That's a new style of play for Meath but they performed well and actually led with 67 minutes on the clock before being reeled in and overtaken by a Donegal side that were good value for the win overall.
Rory Gallagher's men had influential performers in Michael Murphy, who kicked five points from midfield, and goalscoring wing-back Ryan McHugh and should have added a couple more goals on the evening.
They had a Hugh McFadden goal late in the first-half ruled out for an apparent square ball infringement. There was also a great chance minutes earlier that was thwarted by a last ditch interception by Meath full-back Conor McGill.
On both occasions, Meath counter attacked and scored a point themselves to tie up the game at 0-7 apiece at half-time.
The Division 2 outfit, facing a Division 1 team for the first time in over a year, took advantage and improved in the third quarter of the game to move two points clear on a couple of occasions.
Andy McEntee's men were 0-11 to 0-9 up with 17 minutes of normal time remaining though Donegal appeared to have taken control of the game when they hit three points from Frank McGlynn and McBrearty and then scored that McHugh goal.
It was a terrific goal too as McHugh began it from midfield and then, following passes between Martin McElhinney and Eoghan Ban Gallagher, finished it off with a palm to the net.
That put Donegal 1-12 to 0-12 ahead though, remarkably, Meath netted themselves in the very next play through Cillian O'Sullivan.
The Moynalvey man was black carded soon after as the sides battled it out and they were level at 1-13 and 1-14 apiece.
The game was in its final minute of injury-time and headed towards extra-time when McBrearty took on the responsibility and boomed that point over to win it for the 2012 All-Ireland champions.
Their reward is a Round 4A qualifier clash with Cork or the beaten Connacht finalists.
Donegal scorers: P McBrearty (0-7, 3 frees), M Murphy (0-5, 2 frees), R McHugh (1-0), J McGee (0-2), F McGlynn (0-1).
Meath scorers: D Lenihan (0-7, 7 frees); C O'Sullivan (1-1), G Reilly, R O Coileain, Donal Keogan, Shane McEntee, J McEntee, B Menton (0-1 each).
DONEGAL: MA McGinley; C Ward, N McGee, K Gillespie; P McGrath, R McHugh, F McGlynn; J McGee, M Murphy; E Gallagher, C Thompson, E McHugh; M O'Reilly, H McFadden, P McBrearty.
Subs: M McElhinney for Thompson (43), J Brennan for McFadden (48), K Lacey for O'Reilly (58), M McHugh for McGlynn (60).
MEATH: P O'Rourke; D Keogan, C McGill, M Burke; P Harnan, Brian Power, S McEntee; B Menton, B Conlon; R O Coileain, J McEntee, G Reilly; Tobin, C O'Sullivan, D Lenihan.
Subs: M Newman for Sean Tobin (h/t), D Tobin for S McEntee (61), E Wallace for O'Sullivan (67, black card).
Referee: D. O'Mahoney (Tipperary).