By John Fogarty
Slaughtneil 1-14 Austin Stacks 2-10
A crunching Kieran Donaghy appeared to have provided Austin Stacks with the platform to secure extra-time in the penultimate minute of normal time, only for Shane Carroll to kick the free wide.
Donaghy's tackle on Christopher Bradley, which saw the Slaughtneil forward replaced shortly afterwards, seemed to be just the tonic for the Tralee men after Cormac O'Doherty put their rivals a point ahead in the 56th minute.
But Carroll's effort was off target and Slaughtneil held on to seal their St Patrick's Day date with Corofin in Croke Park.
In truth, they were marginally the better side despite trailing by five points at one stage in the first half. Stacks were made to pay for a lack of support play in the middle of the field and a three-man full-forward line was a questionable tactic against the wind.
Stacks led by two with 19 minutes remaining only for Christopher Bradley to bag a brace of points.
They held the advantage again after a David Mannix free but Slaughtneil once more fought back with scores from Gerald Bradley and Chrissy McKaigue.
A Carroll free saw the sides level for an eighth occasion in the 53rd minute but it was O'Doherty, with his first score, that made the difference with a long-range point.
The incendiary feel to this game was apparent almost from the outset and David Gough could have reached for the yellow card earlier than the 16th minute. That came McKaigue's way after he fouled Donaghy a second time for a second penalty in the space of three minutes.
Slaughtneil were leading 0-4 to 0-2, scoring those four points on the bounce, before a long ball was lofted into Donaghy. He managed to feed Shane O'Callaghan who found the net but Gough remarkably called back play for the foul when he might have opted to use the advantage rule
Antóin McMullan was level to Pa McCarthy's penalty but the Stacks' wing-back made no mistake with the rebound. Shortly afterwards, he was slotting the ball into the right top corner from the spot after McKaigue again impeded Donaghy illegitimately.
O'Callaghan followed that up with a point and Stacks led by five. A fine Mannix point restored that advantage following a Paul Bradley free at the other end but the remainder of the half belonged to Slaughtneil as they reeled in Stacks, punishing them especially on their own kick-out.
Christopher Bradley posted two points before Barry McGuigan's 30th minute goal, his initial shot after a mazy solo hitting the post only for him to score a goal at the second time of asking.
The score pushed them one ahead, 1-8 to 2-4, but there was still time for Shane Carroll to ensure it was all square at the break.
Subs for Austin Stacks: D O'Brien for M Collins (h-t); W Kirby for D Bohan (44).
Referee: D Gough (Meath)