With 46 minutes on the clock, the Munster champions trailed by 2-8 to 0-9 after Michael Dwyer rammed to the roof of the net for Wexford, who were boosted by the arrival of Mattie Forde in the second half.
It forced the Kingdom to take drastic action. Manager Stephen Wallace sprung Brendan O’Sullivan and Thomas Hickey from the bench and the fresh legs powered them forward over the final quarter.
O’Sullivan and Liam Kearney managed to monopolise midfield while Hickey showed enthusiastically in the corner. On 49 minutes, leading marksman Conor Cox palmed to the net at the back post following a fluent passing move and Kerry were back in the game.
Seven minutes later, Kearney produced a huge catch before Hickey sprayed across for Cox to punch home once again.
The comeback was complete when Killian Spillane finished another defence-splitting attack involving O’Sullivan and David Culhane in the final minute of normal time. A lethal injection of 3-4 in the space of 13 minutes.
It could have turned out very differently as David Power’s Wexford fully deserved their five-point lead entering the last leg of the journey. A thumping drive from Paudie Barden to the top corner of Shane Murphy’s net on 16 minutes gave them encouragement.
Donal Shanley and Niall Harney also knocked over fine scores to leave them 1-6 to 0-7 in the clear at halfway. Only a late brace by Philip O’Connor prevented Wexford from holding a more sizeable advantage.
They kicked on further when Power sent in 2004 All-Star Forde for the second half. The Kilanerin man only needed 50 seconds to make an impression and measure a point from the right wing.
Although Cox and O’Connor pared down the arrears to one, Forde sprinkled more magic dust at the other end. He intercepted a stray sideline ball and slipped a pass inside for Michael Dwyer to finish emphatically past Murphy. A seven-point Kerry win looked implausible before Wallace’s rejig turned things round.
C Cox (2-4, 4 frees); K Spillane (1-0); P O’Connor (0-3); B O’Sullivan (0-2); T Hickey, L Kearney, J O’Donoghue, J Walsh (0-1 each).
P Barden (1-1); M Dwyer (1-0); D Shanley (0-3, 3 frees); N Harney (0-2); C Redmond, D Murphy, M Forde (0-1 each).
S Murphy; D O’Donoghue, D Culhane, G Crowley; J Walsh, T Morley, E Kiely; G O’Sullivan, L Kearney; P O’Connor, J O’Donoghue, B Crowley; A O’Donoghue, C Cox, J Kiely.
K Spillane for J O’Donoghue (44); B O’Sullivan for G O’Sullivan (47); T Hickey for Kiely (47); A Barry for A O’Donoghue (56).
R Cleary; P Curtis, J Rossiter, P O’Keeffe; S Doyle, R Vallejo, G Carty; G Malone, J White; N Harney, D Shanley, M Dwyer; M Rossiter, P Barden, K Rowe.
M Forde for Rossiter (HT); C Redmond for Rowe (33); A Maddock for Curtis (44); D Murphy for Malone (50); S Gaul for White (58).
J Bermingham (Cork)