Trailing by seven points with just 20 minutes to go and having squandered several good goal chances, beaten Leinster finalists Meath looked in real peril.
But by full-time they were left savouring another famous comeback victory to keep alive their hopes of a first minor title since 1992.
As it is, they will contest just their first underage decider since 2002, when they were beaten by Derry, and if Dublin prove the opposition they won’t lack any motivation.
Quite aside from the eastern neighbours’ famous old rivalry, Dessie Farrell’s Dubs beat Meath by 12 points in July’s provincial final.
Indeed a late goal also accounted for Tyrone in the quarter-finals in Newry.
But it’s impressive stuff all the same and afterwards manager Andy McEntee was even comparing it to the spirit shown by the great old Meath teams that played under Sean Boylan.
Meath leaked the first four points of the game yesterday and after 20 minutes were trailing by 1-5 to 0-1.
The score was a little misleading as Meath had enjoyed plenty of early possession but, guilty of over-elaboration at times, they’d wasted the majority of it.
Still, it was a difficult position to find themselves in and with Mayo players like Diarmuid O’Connor and Shane Hennelly firing nicely in attack, the favourites looked set to live up to their billing.
O’Connor grabbed Mayo’s goal in the 20th minute to put them 1-4 to 0-1 clear.
Meath will reflect on back-to-back points from centre-forward Jason Daly as crucial at this stage in stemming the tide of green and red dominance.
The scores lifted Meath and inspired the likes of Padraic Harnan, James McEntee and Cillian O’Sullivan to split the posts themselves.
Mayo now led by just 1-7 to 0-6 at half-time but used the interval break to compose themselves and restarted with gusto.
Adam Gallagher kicked two points and when James Quinn stroked over a 36th minute effort they led convincingly, 1-10 to 0-6.
Amazingly, Mayo only scored one more point. It came from Stephen Coen four minutes into injury-time and amounted to nearly half an hour without a score for the beaten Connacht finalists.
Meath weren’t exactly at their clinical best and booted six second-half wides. But they were efficient enough to haul themselves back into contention approaching the final five minutes or so.
O’Sullivan was impressive at wing-forward while Ruairi Ó Coileain was an influential substitute and scored a neat point. The placed ball kicking of full-forward Ward, younger brother of senior star Cian, was critical too.
The game hung in the balance twice in the closing minutes. Firstly, with three points between them, Meath were awarded a penalty when Adam Gallagher was controversially deemed to have foot blocked an O’Sullivan shot.
Ward dispatched the resulting kick – albeit in less than convincing fashion – and the sides were level for the first time at 1-10 apiece.
Extra-time loomed large as both sides failed to score in the coming minutes. But good work by O’Sullivan and Ward finally released substitute Patrick Kennelly who volleyed home from close range in the 61st minute.
Mayo did pull back a solitary point through Coen but it was too late and the feeling of being mugged must have been strong as they returned west empty-handed.
Scorers for Meath: F Ward 1-3 (3fs, 1-0 pen), P Kennelly 1-0, J Daly, C O’Sullivan 0-2 each; P Harnan, J McEntee, R Ó Coileain 0-1 each.
Scorers for Mayo: D O’Connor 1-0, A Gallagher 0-3 (2fs), E Lavin (1f, 1 45), S Coen 0-2 each, S Regan, S Hennelly, P Durcan, J Quinn 0-1 each.
Subs for Meath: R O Coileain for Carton (36), P Kennelly for Dardis (37), C Ó Griofa for Coogan (63).
Subs for Mayo: D Duffy for Lavin (34), C Byrne for Regan (34), S Regan for Quinn (48), D McHale for O’Connor (53).
Referee: C O’Hagan (Tyrone).