Gearoid McKiernan’s goal just before half-time gave the Breffni men hope of pulling themselves out of the relegation zone.
But it was a false hope built on shaky foundations, for the Red Hands flicked the switch with the wind at their backs in the second half, outscoring their Ulster rivals by 0-12 to a point to go top of the Division One table.
Despite that handsome tally, Mickey Harte is still somewhat torn in his search for the optimum balance, unsure of his most effective attacking unit. The starting six managed just three points from play, while Mark Bradley and Ronan O’Neill came off the bench to hit five between them.
And Harte’s attempt to convert All-Star midfielder Mattie Donnelly into a marquee attacker appears fraught with risk. Should Donnelly not prove himself an unqualified success in the front line, his loss around the middle will prove a deficit to the value of Tyrone’s challenge for a return to supremacy.
“I am very happy to be top of the league. What more do you want, four games and we are top of the league, you would take that at the start of the season any day,” said Tyrone manager, Harte.
“I think it is pushing ourselves away from the relegation zone.
“That’s the first thing you have to do in Division One stay away from the relegation.
“Since we are in that position, it’s about how far you can go. It’s one step at a time. If we can add points, the next day we go out we will be a better position.”
Cavan retreated into a packed defensive set-up early on, hoping to hold their opponents out and profit on the break, and it worked as Gearoid McKiernan and Dara McVeety nailed early scores.
It was a frustrating time for the Red Hands, but once they committed extra men to the offensive effort and ran strongly at their opponents, the scores flowed, with Padraig McNulty edging them ahead.
But wing back Martin Reilly’s three wonder points kept Breffni in touch, and after being level six times, they hit the lead with McKiernan’s 34th minute goal which left it 1-8 to 0-7 at the break.
It was one-way traffic for wind-assisted Tyrone after the break, with subs Bradley and O’Neill firing over fine points as they bombarded Cavan.
Cavan manager and former Tyrone star Mattie McGleenan admitted they couldn’t live with Red Hand firepower in the second half.
“The quality they have is unbelievable, young Bradley came in and torched us,” he said as he contemplated a battle to avoid an immediate return to Division Two.
“We have a five/six day turnaround to Mayo and then Kerry after that. They are huge games but we are not going to learn without being punished for those mistakes. Cavan have a lot to learn and they need to learn fast.”
Peter Harte (0-4, 4 frees), S Cavanagh (3 frees), M Bradley (0-3 each), R O’Neill (0-2), N Morgan (free), T McCann, C Cavanagh, P McNulty, K McGeary, M Donnelly, D McCurry (0-1 each).
G McKiernan (1-4, 0-2 frees), M Reilly (0-3), D McVeety, C Madden (0-1 each)
N Morgan; P Hampsey, J McMahon, C McCarron; T McCann, R Brennan, A McCrory; C Cavanagh, P McNulty; C Meyler, K McGeary, P Harte; D McCurry, S Cavanagh, M Donnelly.
R McNamee for Brennan (h-t), M Bradley for McNulty (44), J Munroe for McNamee (BC 45), F Burns for McMahon (50), R O’Neill for McCurry (BC 52).
R Galligan; R Dunne, K Brady, J McLoughlin; C Brady, C Moynagh, M Reilly; T Corr, G McKiernan; G Smith, D McVeety, N Clerkin; N Murray, C Madden, P O’Connor.
C Mackey for Clerkin (h-t), S Murray for N Murray (h-t), F Reilly for McLoughlin (49), G McCutcheon for Clerkin (55).
D Gough (Meath).