Laois 2-18 Antrim 1-13
Laois finished strongly with two goals in a minute to leave 14-man Antrim planning on a play-off with either Kerry or Westmeath to decide who will play in Division 1B of the Allianz Hurling League next year.
The double strike left Antrim shellshocked, as they dominated the second half and drew level through substitute Daniel McKernan with five minutes left.
This was despite the 48th minute sending off of Ryan McCambridge, who was involved in an off-the-ball challenge with Willie Hyland and received a straight red card from Derek Hughes.
When McKiernan equalised, Antrim seemed to have the momentum, but a clinical finish for a goal by Zane Keenan in the 66th minute, followed by a magnificent effort by Ross King a minute later ended their hopes.
The Saffron men must now beat either Kerry or Westmeath to remain in the second tier of the competition.
Laois got off to a quick start with three of the first four points from Joe Campion, Willie Hyland and the excellent Cha Dwyer - but Antrim settled into the fray a little better and points from Simon McCrory and Paul Shiels kept them in touch.
The hosts upped the tempo though and three quick points from the lethal Zane Keenan, Dwyer and Keenan again suddenly opened a four-point margin.
Then came Clarke’s goal, as Reilly looked to have gathered possession but fumbled it into the Antrim forward’s path.
Kevin Ryan would have hoped for an enthusiastic reaction from his charges but instead, it was Laois that kicked on with four of the next five points.
Keenan punished Antrim indiscipline on three occasions and finished five converted frees in the opening period.
PJ Scully, Ross King and Patrick Whelan added scores and though Clarke and Shiels responded for Antrim, it was 0-13 to 1-6 at the break.
Scully and Campion stretched the gap to six, but Antrim held the upper hand for the remainder of the half.
Clarke was a constant menace to the Laois defence, and had a flashing shot just wide. He was accurate from placed balls, while Shiels also contributed in this area from distance.
Bit by bit they clawed themselves back into proceedings and Laois were hanging on.
The visitors will rue a missed clearance late on though and Keenan, who had moved into the full-forward line, was quick to pounce and send a low shot to the far corner of the net.
From the next attack, King rounded his marker and unleashed a thunderous blow to the roof of the net over his shoulder to remove any doubt.
Scorers – Laois: Z Keenan 1-6(0-fs); R King 1-2; PJ Scully 0-3; C Dwyer, J Campion 0-2 each; P Whelan, J Fitzpatrick, W Hyland 0-1 each.
Antrim: C Clarke 1-5(0-4fs); P Shiels 0-4(3fs); N McManus, S McCrory, O McFadden, D McKernan 0-1 each.
Laois: E Reilly, JA Delaney, C Healy, J Walsh, P Whelan, C Dunne, J Fitzpatrick, Z Keenan, P Purcell, W Hyland, J Campion, C Dwyer, PJ Scully, T Fitzgerald, R King.
Subs: D Palmer for Purcell (56), J Purcell for Fitzgerald (62), B Conroy for Walsh (68).
Antrim: R McGarry, R McCambridge, A Graffin, N McAuley, O McFadden, P Shiels, S McCrory, C Johnson, M Bradley, E Campbell, C Carson, N McManus, C Clarke, PJ O’Connell, C Johnston.
Subs: T McCann for McCrory (24), M Donnelly for McCann (49), D McKernan for O’Connell (49).
Referee: D Hughes (Carlow).