The Cats, who were driven on by the excellent Miriam Walsh, thought they had done enough to win the game when they led by three points deep into injury time but, in the third minute of added on time, Cronin’s effort — which got a deflection on the way to the net, gave Noelle Murphy no chance.
The first half was a tight affair with both sides keen not to hand the initiative to their opponents. Kilkenny held a slender 0-4 to 0-3 at the break but that opening half didn’t hint at the drama that was to come.
Cronin’s first goal in the 39th minute moved Cork into a three-point lead but Kilkenny hauled themselves back level with points from Walsh, Ciara Holden and Lydia Fitzpatrick.
The excitement was building as the game moved into the final seven minutes and after quick-fire goals at either end from Linda Collins (Cork) and Niamh Donnelly there was still no separating them.
However, it seemed like Kilkenny had finally pulled away when Holden split the posts with a free and Walsh brought here total to five points with two further scores.
Cork didn’t lose heart though and kept plugging away right to the very end and they got their reward with Cronin’s late strike forcing a replay on May 11.
Scorers for Kilkenny: M Walsh 0-5, L Fitzpatrick 0-3, N Donnelly 1-0, C Holden 0-2 (1f).
Scorers for Cork: O Cronin 2-2, L Collins 1-0, K Hickey 0-2.
KILKENNY: N Murphy; C Farrell, C Foley, M Kenneally; M Farrell, M O’Connell, A Butler; L Fitzpatrick, A Nolan; M Walsh, S Whelan, A Gannon, A Talbot, C Holden, M Corcoran.
Subs: N Donnelly, L Long.
CORK: A Lee; S Ring, L Treacy, A Curtin; E Kavanagh, L Callanan, S O’Leary; J Hosford, J Hennigan; C Murphy, O Cronin, K Hickey, A O’Connor, R Sheehan, L Collins.
Subs: H Looney, A Wallace, R O’Shea, O Healy.
Referee: J Dolan (Clare).