Westmeath 1-15 Derry 0-10, Cusack Park
Derry held onto their place in Division 2 despite enduring a second half collapse in Mullingar this afternoon.
Helped by other results, the Oak Leafers have avoided the drop to the third tier - a fate which Westmeath also did well to escape from.
Paddy Bradley hit four points as dominant Derry led by 0-8 to 0-3 at the break.
But Westmeath raised their game against the 14-man visitors, with Denis Glennon kicking key scores and James Dolan grabbing the only goal.
Centre-back Dermot McBride’s dismissal early in the second half left Derry shorthanded, and Westmeath took full advantage to earn their third and most important win of the league.
All three came at Cusack Park but Derry looked set to end that winning run when they opened up a seven-point advantage approaching half-time.
John Heslin hit Westmeath’s only point as against eight from the wind-backed visitors, with Bradley accounting for half of them.
It was all one-way traffic as the former All-Star scored from frees and from play, along with late call-up Barry McGoldrick and his brother Sean Leo, Ryan Scott and Enda Lynn.
Heslin popped over another placed ball to end a barren spell for the Lakesiders, with Kieran Martin landing their first score from play in first half injury-time.
The complexion of the game charged five minutes after the restart when referee Martin Sludden brandished a second yellow card to McBride.
Suddenly, Westmeath were the team forcing the issue and they had a sensational second 35 minutes during which they outscored Derry by 1-12 to 0-2.
Denis Glennon fired over a quick brace with Heslin also on target, paring the margin back to 0-8 to 0-6.
The Ulstermen kicked a succession of bad wides as they were knocked off their stride, although Cailean O’Boyle did managed to nab their ninth point.
Eoin Bradley was introduced by Derry boss John Brennan to make his long-awaited return from injury and a point from Sean Leo McGoldrick kept the visitors ahead, if only briefly.
Westmeath got back on terms at 0-10 apiece with Pat Flanagan’s decision to move Glennon further out from goal working a treat - the Tyrrellspass clubman landed four points in the second period.
He also played in substitute James Dolan for a crucial goal, after which Westmeath never looked like being beaten.
It is the sort of result which might convince the 32-year-old Dessie Dolan, James’ cousin, to come back into the fold after spearheading Garrycastle’s challenge for All-Ireland honours.
Dolan has not played for Westmeath since last June’s All-Ireland SFC qualifier defeat to Antrim, but is set to meet with Flanagan next week to discuss his inter-county future.
Derry, after falling to their fourth loss in seven league games, were let off the hook by defeats for Meath and Monaghan which saw them relegated to Division 3.