The Noresiders were deserving winners of a wonderful free-flowing game, superbly refereed by Owen Elliott, having dominated the possession stakes for the majority of proceedings.
Despite that, they had to dig deep to overcome the concession of two goals inside the opening eight minutes, as well as a period in the second half when they conceded five successive points.
They also managed only one point from two first-half penalties, and that came after 30 seconds when Aoife Neary opted to take the safe option.
That decision looked costly when goal machine Katrina Mackey found the Kilkenny net 92 seconds later after brilliant play by Angela Walsh and Aisling Thompson.
The magnificent Katie Power and Aoife Neary (free) responded with points for the Black and Amber but Mackey’s pace caused more problems and she set up Julia White for another Cork goal.
The Cats continued to dominate possession though, and player of the matchPower goaled in the 23rd minute for a 1-7 to 2-3 interval lead.
They wasted a number of chances to go in with a bigger advantage, however. Aoife Murray made a brilliant save from Denise Gaule, while Rena Buckley stopped Neary’s 19th-minute penalty after a foul on Shelly Farrell.
Two early points from Aisling Dunphy and Power increased the margin to three, but with Orla Cotter and White supplying four of Cork’s next five scores, it was the Leesiders who were looking good entering the final quarter.
The momentum changed once more, however, as Aoife Neary goaled 10 minutes from time. Cotter slotted her third second-half point to level the scores but was immediately substituted, with Gemma O’Connor — home on a three-week break from an Army tour of duty — entering the fray in the 53rd minute.
Power and Michelle Quilty put Kilkenny two points clear. Walsh then pointed but Power brought her own tally to 1-6 from play on the hour.
Cork threw everything at them in the two minutes of injury time but Thompson’s fizzing shot flew just over the bar and time ran out.
Scorers for Kilkenny: K Power 1-6; A Neary 1-3 (0-2f); G Walsh, A Dunphy, D Gaule 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: J White 1-2; K Mackey 1-1; O Cotter 0-3; A Walsh 0-2; J O’Leary, A Thompson, B Corkery 0-1 each.
KILKENNY: E Kavanagh, M Power, K McDonald, J Frisby, L Fennelly, E Keane, E Aylward, C Phelan, A Dalton, G Walsh, A Dunphy, K Power, S Farrell, D Gaule, A Neary.
Subs: M Quilty for Walsh (h-t); C Dormer for Phelan (51); K Hamilton for Gaule (51).
CORK: A Murray, J O’Callaghan, M Walsh, P Mackey, D Cronin, R Buckley, A Geary, O Cotter, B Corkery, E O’Sullivan, A Walsh, A Thompson, J White, K Mackey, J O’Leary.
Subs: S Burns for O’Sullivan (35); G O’Connor for Cotter (53); F Neville for Corkery (57).
Referee: O Elliott (Antrim).