Goals from Odhrán MacNiallais and Caolan Ward should have given them a comfortable passage, but they almost blew it when a late Derry fightback saw Ryan Bell smash a shot against the crossbar.
Donegal hit the front with a tenth minute goal from MacNiallais, but the Oak Leafers clicked into action, scoring five points on the spin, three of them coming from Ryan Bell long range frees.
Paddy McBrearty angled over his third to tie it up, sending the sides in deadlocked at 1-5 to 0-8 at the break. Donegal got back on track with a second goal less than two minutes into the second-half, McBrearty’s magical creativity sending full-back Caolan Ward in to poke the ball past Christopher Bradley.
Scorers for Donegal: O MacNiallais, C Ward 1-0 each, P McBrearty 0-5 (2f), C Gibbon 0-2, M O’Reilly, L Kelly, R McHugh, D O’Connor 0-1 each.
Scorers for Derry: R Bell 0-6 (6f), A Devlin 0-3, C Spiers 0-2, F Bell, K Conway, C McFaul, C Kearns (f) 0-1 each.
DONEGAL: P Boyle, K McFadden, C Ward, P Carr, E McHugh, M O’Reill;y, R McHugh, L Keaney, O MacNiallais, G Gallagher, W Gillespie, P McBrearty, C Gibbon.
Subs: Darach O’Connor for Gillespie, C Parke for Cannon, C Barrett for Carr
DERRY: C Bradley, G McKinless, P Quinnm, D Browne, K McKeague, C McAtamney, J Morgan, K Conway, R Dougan, N Rocks, R Bell, C McFaul, F Bell, A Devlin, C Spiers.
Subs: C Kearns for Morgan, M McCloskey for Brown, S McGuigan for F Bell, R Moore for Rocks
Referee: M McNally (Monaghan).