Without six of their regular line-out the hosts dominated the first half, scored two important goals, and survived a second half onslaught from the Leinster side.
Down raced into a 1-4 to 0-1 lead after 20 minutes with their goal coming from Aaron O’Prey while Gareth Johnson pointed two frees. Eoin Nolan was the Carlow scorer. Down’s second goal after 25 minutes came from an Eoin Clarke sideline cut and when Clarke and Paul Keith added points Down led by 2-6 to 0-4 at half time.
The second-half saw Carlow at their best. Paudie Kehoe, substitute Andrew Gaule, Nolan and Dwayne Kavanagh were all on target to cut the gap to six points as Down battled to retain their two goal advantage.
In a pulsating finish, Gareth Johnson and Paudie Kehoe twice exchanged points and although the Leinster men scored the final three points, the all important equalising goal eluded them as the Down defence defended superbly.
DOWN: G Clarke; M Hughes, F Conway, S Ennis; B Toner, C Woods, M Ennis; A Savage, E Clarke (1-2, 1-0 sideline cut, 0-1 free, 0-1 65); J Coyle (0-1), S Clarke, A O’Prey (1-1); D Toner, G Johnson (0-5, 0-4 frees), P Keith (0-1).
Subs: C Mageean (0-1) for D Toner; K McGarry for B Toner (50); S Nicholson for S Clarke (55); A Clarke for P Keith (65).
CARLOW: K Kehoe; A Corcoran, J Rogers, B Doyle; E Coady, D Kavanagh (0-4, 0-3 frees, 0-1 65’), R Coady; J Kavanagh, E Nolan (0-3); M Brennan, HP O’Byrne, C Doyle (0-1 free); R Dunbar, E Byrne, P Kehoe (0-3, 0-2 frees).
Subs: A Gaule (0-3) for HP O’Byrne (29); D Shaw for J Rogers (32).
Referee: R Matthews (Antrim).