A wind-assisted Kingdom raced into a three-point lead with just two minutes on the clock, and they were 0-8 to 0-3 ahead by the time Westmeath corner-forward Niall O’Brien was sent off on the quarter-hour mark after picking up his second yellow card.
O’Connor was “delighted to come away with the two points” and was full of praise for Westmeath “who fought and battled, despite being down to 14 men”.
The Kerry full forward line of Pádraig and Mikey Boyle, and Shane Nolan, continued to cause the Lake County rearguard plenty of trouble and the visitors were full value for their interval lead of 0-12 to 0-5.
A converted ‘65’ from Allan Devine and a monster free by Killian Doyle reduced the deficit to five points within three minutes of the resumption.
However, Kerry outscored their opponents by six points to two over the ensuing 15 minutes.
Westmeath got a lifeline in the 54th minute when their most potent attacking threat, Niall Mitchell, scored a fine individual goal.
With three minutes of normal time remaining Killian Doyle rifled home a penalty for Westmeath.
However, a period of all-out attack by the home team in the closing stages yielded what amounted to a mere consolation point from Robbie Greville.
Kerry also finished the game with 14 men, midfielder Jack Goulding picking up his second yellow card in the 69th minute.
Losing manager Michael Ryan, remained philosophical after his side’s second straight championship defeat, stating: “We didn’t play well enough and we made a lot of mistakes during the course of the game. We’ve been up and down this year and, apart from the Antrim game in the league, we haven’t really struck a high.”
Remarkably, however, a win against Meath in Mullingar on May 14 may still be enough to qualify the Lake County for a third successive provincial quarter-final.
S Nolan (0-7, 1 ‘65’, 4 frees); M Boyle (0-4); P Boyle (0-3); J Conway (0-2); J Goulding, P O’Connor, M O’Leary, J O’Connor (0-1 each).
A Devine (0-8, 1 ‘65’, 6 frees); K Doyle (1-2, 1-0 pen, 1 ‘65’, 1 free), N Mitchell (1-0); R Greville (0-2).
M Stackpoole; J Buckley, R Horgan, S Weir; J O’Connor, D Dineen, T Murnane; J Goulding, P O’Connor; J Conway, M O’Leary, B O’Leary; P Boyle, M Boyle, S Nolan.
J Griffin for M O’Leary (64), M O’Connor for P Boyle (68), K Carmody for B O’Leary (70+4).
P Maloney; C Shaw, T Doyle, T Gallagher; G Greville, P Greville, A Clarke; C Boyle, J Boyle; A Devine, K Doyle, R Greville; N O’Brien, N Mitchell, D Egerton.
J Galvin for J Boyle (h-t), D McNicholas for Egerton (h-t), A Cox for G Greville (44).
P O’Dwyer (Carlow)