In a topsy-turvy Allianz Football League clash at Cusack Park, Mayo emerged with a five-point win as Cillian O’Connor made his seasonal debut for the Connacht champions.
O’Connor came off the bench in the 45th minute to help guide Mayo to victory, pointing a free as they ended the relegation-threatened midlanders’ hopes of a shock result.
That had seemed a possibility as Westmeath recovered from an early nine-point deficit to lead 2-8 to 2-7 at half-time, with Kieran Martin (1-1) and James Dolan (2-2) both netting for the hosts.
Mayo’s first half goals were scored by Lee Keegan and Mikey Sweeney and they reeled off nine unanswered points in the second half - with three from centre forward Kevin McLoughlin - to put themselves out of Westmeath’s reach.
Paul Bealin’s underdogs, who lost their first three league games, struggled early on against a Mayo team that included nine players who featured in last year’s All-Ireland final.
The initial damage was done by Keegan’s second-minute goal, with Sweeney providing the assist, and McLoughlin and John Heslin exchanged frees for a 1-1 to 0-1 scoreline.
An error by Westmeath goalkeeper Darren Quinn led to Sweeney’s green flag and the majority of the 6,600-strong crowd feared the worst for the Lakesiders.
Points followed from Enda Varley and Aidan O’Shea as Mayo opened up a 2-4 to 0-1 advantage with just 10 minutes on the clock. Somehow, winless Westmeath rallied and a fisted goal from Martin two minutes later got them firing.
The scores began to flow as Heslin and James Dolan knocked over points and the latter soon claimed a goal, finishing off some excellent approach work from Denis Glennon and Dessie Dolan.
A Doron Harte point edged Bealin’s side in front at the break and Heslin’s fifth pointed free made it 2-9 to 2-7, but Mayo soon found an extra gear or two to leave the midlanders trailing in their wake.
McLoughlin, Alan Freeman, Keegan and substitutes Brian Gallagher and David Drake got their shooting boots on to stretch the visitors into what looked an unassailable lead, with O’Connor’s introduction giving them a further boost.
Dolan mustered a second goal late on, scrambling home to give Westmeath something to cling onto but Gallagher's injury-time point closed out Mayo's second straight league success.
Darren Quinn; Steven Gilmore, Kieran Gavin, Kevin Maguire; Paul Sharry, John Gilligan, Jamie Gonoud; David Duffy, John Heslin (0-5, 0-5f); Kieran Martin (1-1), Ger Egan, Doran Harte; Denis Glennon, James Dolan (2-2), Dessie Dolan (0-1).
Subs used: David McCormack for Harte (48 mins), Gavin Hoey for Glennon (53), Denis Corroon for Duffy (60).
Robert Hennelly; Kevin Keane, Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey; Lee Keegan (1-2), Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle; Aidan O’Shea (0-2), Jason Gibbons; Keith Higgins, Kevin McLoughlin (0-3, 0-1f), Jason Doherty; Enda Varley (0-1), Alan Freeman (0-5, 0-3f), Mikey Sweeney (1-0).
Subs used: David Drake (0-1) for Keane (half-time), Cillian O'Connor (0-1, 0-1f) for Varley (45 mins), Seamus O'Shea for Gibbons (52), Michael Conroy for Sweeney (58), Brian Gallagher (0-2) for Doherty (60), Cathal Carolan for Higgins (67).
Eddie Kinsella (Laois)