Wexford opened as if they were going to run away with the game, an 11th-minute goal from Barry Carton giving them a 1-4 to 0-1.
Within a minute, however, Kilkenny were back in the game courtesy of a solo goal from towering full-forward Walter Walsh. From there to the end of the half they dominated as Wexford threw away chances and ran up eight wides by the break.
The losers had also failed to gain any reward from a 27th-minute penalty, Jack Guiney’s well-struck shot being saved by Richie Doyle on the line.
Quickly after Walsh’s goal the Cats began to move better. They picked up the pace with points from Kevin Kelly (two frees) before John Power, who received an 11th-hour call up in place of senior star Cillian Buckley, scored a brilliant individual goal.
Power, brother of senior star Richie, carried the ball along the end line before beating the keeper.
Suddenly Kilkenny were all over the opposition. By half-time they turned what had been a six-point deficit into a seven-point lead, 2-9 to 1-5. They were flying.
Within 15 seconds of the restart the game was over as Kevin Kelly put Walter Walsh in for a goal.
Things went from bad to worse for Wexford in the 35th minute when defender Willie Deveraux was shown a second yellow card, and then a red.
The Cats, with Walsh, Richie Doyle, Ger Aylward, John Power, Geoff Brennan and Ollie Walsh among their stand-out players, moved into a commanding 3-18 to 2-5 lead before the Slaneysiders put in a late burst.
However, two smashing goals from close-in frees by Jack Guiney, in the 52nd and 56th minutes, did nothing more than take the sting out of the result for Wexford while Kilkenny march on.
Scorers for Kilkenny: K Kelly 0-9, (7f); W Walsh 2-1; J Power 1-1; G Aylward, M Gaffney 0-3 each; G Brennan, C Kenny, P Walsh 0-1 each.
Scorers for Wexford: J Guiney 2-1 (2-1f); M O’Regan 1-2; B Carton 1-1; I Byrne, G Moore 0-1 each.
KILKENNY: D Walsh; J Corcoran, W Phelan, J Lyng; L Harney, R Doyle, B Kennedy; G Brennan, O Walsh; C Kenny, P Walsh, C Buckley; G Aylward, W Walsh, K Kelly.
Subs: M Gaffney for C Kenny (43); P Buggy for K Kelly (51); P O’Carroll for R Doyle (53); O McGrath for J Power (56).
WEXFORD: M Fanning; W Deveraux, M O’Hanlon, A Nolan; C Goff, J Lacey, D O’Keeffe; A Nolan, M Maloney; L Chin, M O’Regan, G Moore; L Og McGovern, J Guiney, B Carton.
Subs: S O’Gorman for M Maloney 29; K Nimmo for A Nolan 38; I Byrne for B Carton 45; B O’Gorman for A Nolan 47; A Nash for L Og McGovern 54.
Referee: D Hughes (Carlow).