Cork started well with an O’Sullivan point after 40 seconds, and the Ballyhea man was to play a significant role - contributing eight points.
However, a very experienced Waterford side were level after six minutes when John Wall pointed a free and by the end of the opening quarter the teams were level on two further occasions.
Defensively Waterford gave little away with full back Shane Kearney and centre back James O’Connor particularly prominent. The Waterford attack utilised their limited possession and they led for the first time after 20 minutes through a Pat Fitzgerald point.
Cork wasted a chance to level the game for the fourth time when Vincent Hurley opted to try for a goal from a 20m free which was saved by the alert goalkeeper Brendan Landers.
After Cork rearranged their defence with Shane O’Neill going to centre back and Hurley going to left half back, the defending champions finished well and deservedly led 0-7 to 0-5 at half time.
Cork made a number of changes on the restart, most notably the placing of Kevin Canty at full forward. And it worked wonders as in the space of seven minutes, they led by double scorers, 0-12 to 0-6, and were looking good for a place in the final.
However Waterford weren’t rolling over, and with John Hartley doing well for them at midfield, they Decies hit back with five points in a row, two of them by their best forward John Wall which left Cork just one to the good (0-13 to 0-12) with 10 minutes to go.
There was tremendous excitement for the remaining minutes and Cork looked to have lost their provincial and national titles when Pat Fitzgerald put Stephen Molumphy in for the game’s only goal to lead 1-12 to 0-14 with only four minutes to go.
However the champions refused to panic. After Brendan Coleman levelled the game for the seventh time, O’Sullivan held his nerve for the winning point.
Unfortunately the Ballyhea man was sent off for a second yellow card offence for a minor offence by the overly fussy referee.
: Cork: M. O’Sullivan 0-8 (0-6 frees); K. Canty 0-3; R. O’Dwyer, J. Hughes (0-1 free, 0-1 65) 0-2 each; D. O’Riordan, B. Coleman 0-1 each. Waterford: J. Wall 0-6 (frees); S. Molumphy 1-1; J. Hartley 0-2; D. Howard, P. Fitzgerald, A. Kirwan, S. McCarthy 0-1 each.
: S. Barry; B. Coleman, W. Twomey, S. O’Leary; J. Hughes, J. Fleming, S. O’Neill; S. Dineen, B. Coleman; S. Kearney, K. Canty, V. Hurley; M. O’Sullivan, D. O’Riordan, J. Murphy.
: R. O’Dwyer for Fleming; P. Cahill for O’Riordan; J. Spillane for Dineen.
: B. Landers; P. Murray, S. Kearney, A. Kearney; W. Cunningham, J. O’Connor, R. Hennessy; A. Kirwan, J. Hartley; P. Fitzgerald, S. Barron, J. Wall; F. Halpin, S. McCarthy, D. Howard. Subs: S. Molumphy for Barron; J. Hurney for Halpin.
: J. O’Mahony (Limerick).