Tyrone 2-13 Donegal 1-10
Tyrone came out on top in an Ulster derby ‘four-pointer’, sending Donegal deeper into the drop zone and easing their own relegation worries in a tense Healy Park encounter.
Niall Sludden and Mark Bradley hit the vital goals that gave the Red Hands just their second win of what has been a difficult campaign, but for Donegal, the challenge has intensified, and they desperately need results from their remaining games against Monaghan and Mayo.
It was Declan Bonner’s side who looked the more likely to achieve in the early stages, leading for almost the entire first half, before Sludden netted on the stroke of the interval.
The loss of top scorer Paddy McBrearty was a big blow to the visitors, and they badly missed his eye for the posts, despite the deployment of Michael Murphy as an out-and-out attacker.
Midfielder Odhran MacNiallais opened the scoring for an attack-minded Donegal side, who played with the wind in the opening period.
When he added a second, a monster effort from 50 metres to give them a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after six minutes, the travelling supporters in the crowds of 5,850 were feeling confident.
Donegal were looking for every opportunity to attack, and Tyrone were on the back foot for long stretches in those opening stages.
But their counter-attacking game was to yield results, and they raided from deep for Bradley, making his first start of the season, and Sludden to fire over scores.
Defender Eoghan Ban Gallagher stretched Donegal’s advantage, but Frank Burns made the run that sent Lee Brennan in to pick off another point.
But Donegal were ahead by double scores, 0-6 to 0-3, by the end of the opening quarter as Murphy converted his second free.
Tyrone closed the gap with converted frees from Brennan and Connor McAliskey, and in the 31st minute, they were awarded a penalty for goalkeeper Shaun Patton’s foul on Sludden.
Patton was fortunate to escape a black card, and the penalty was missed, Peter Harte sending his kick wide.
Two minutes later, however, they did hit the net, and it was Sludden who finished low past Patton to put the Red Hands in front for the first time, ahead by 1-5 to 0-7 at the break.
And they grabbed a second goal less than two minutes into the second half, a delightful Bradley side-step wrong-footing Leo McLoone, and sending the Killyclogher man through to plant the ball in the net for a four points advantage.
Connor McAliskey (2) and goalkeeper Niall Morgan tagged on scores from frees, and Tyrone now held a seven points lead, 2-8 to 0-7.
But Donegal got themselves right back in the game with a 53rd-minute goal, Jamie Brennan making an incisive run, before Eoghan Ban Gallagher crossed for MacNiallais to palm to the net.
Substitute Stephen McBrearty slotted over a score to leave a goal between the sides, and they had another positive spell which saw Hugh McFadden narrow the gap further.
Going into the final ten minutes, Donegal trailed by just two, but the Red Hands dominated that closing spell, hitting the last four points of the game, through Brennan (2), McShane and Harte to claim two important points.
Tyrone: N Morgan (0-1, f); HP McGeary, P Hampsey, C McCarron; C Meyler, F Burns, M Donnelly; C Cavanagh, P McNulty; P Harte (0-1), N Sludden (1-1), C McShane (0-1); L Brennan (0-5, 4f), C McAliskey (0-3, 3f), M Bradley (1-1).
Subs: M McKernan for McGeary (48), K McGeary for McNulty (56), D Mulgrew for McAliskey (62), D McCurry for Bradley (66), C McCann for McShane (70), R Brennan for Meyler (73)
Donegal: S Patton; C Morrison, S McMenamin, E Ban Gallagher (0-1); T McClenaghan, C Ward, E Doherty (0-1); H McFadden (0-1), O MacNiallais (1-2); L McLoone, R McHugh, M McHugh (0-1); C Thompson, M Murphy (0-3, 3f), J Brennan.
Subs: D O Baoill for Thompson (41), M McElhinney for McClenaghan (41), S McBrearty (0-1) for M McHugh (48), F McGlynn for Ward (56), N O’Donnell for Brennan (63), M Langan for MacNiallais (76),
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).
The results of the rest of today’s Allianz Football League games:
Allianz Football League Div 2
Cavan 0-17 0-14 Down
Allianz Football League Div 3
Armagh 1-15 0-14 Derry
Wexford 1-10 1-13 Offaly
Allianz Football League Div 4
Carlow 1-17 0-12 Wicklow
Limerick 2-10 2-09 Waterford