Monaghan squeezed through to the second round of the All-Ireland SFC Qualifier series with a nervy four-point win over a dogged Fermanagh side at Clones.
Despite being down to 14 men, the Erne side battled back to reduce the deficit to a single point deep into stoppage time, before Malachy O’Rourke’s men sealed it with a late goal.
And they needed a brilliant penalty save from Rory Beggan to keep out a Fermanagh team that played with typical defensive resilience but always looked dangerous on the breakaway.
Erne discipline let them down in the end, and they finished with 12 men, after Paul McCusker and James McMahon were sent off, joining Lee Cullen, who had earlier been red-carded.
Ryan Lyons gave Fermanagh a dream start with a goal after just five minutes, connecting with Declan McCusker’s assist to send a low, angled shot to the bottom corner of Rory Beggan’s net.
Pushing men forward, they increased the lead with a Lyons free, and even without their skipper Eoin Donnelly, unavailable due to a family bereavement, the Lakelanders were looking positive and confident.
When not in possession, they streamed bodies back in a familiar defensive set-up, and frustrated the home side until the 14th minute, when Niall Kearns sent over Monaghan’s opening score.
Daniel Teague responded as Fermanagh went back on the attack, but they failed to score in the second quarter, forced back deep into their own half by a Monaghan side growing in confidence.
Kieran Hughes landed a superb point, but Fermanagh remained dangerous on the counter-attack, the exciting Ultan Kelm making a piercing run to set up Lyons with another goal chance, but Conor Boyle responded with a vital challenge.
The Farney men continued to press, and ‘keeper Beggan landed a superbly struck free kick, and it was Hughes, with another ling range punt, that brought them level.
Just before the break, Monaghan went in front for the first time through veteran Vinny Corey, and took a 0-6 to 1-2 lead into the interval.
Monaghan pulled further clear with a free from Conor McManus, having an unusually quiet afternoon, and Kieran Duffy
Their ball-winning percentage around midfield was on the rise all the time, and McManus picked his moment to shine, arrowing over a delightful score to leave three between the sides at the end of the third quarter, but his game was cut short by a black card.
But Fermanagh made another incisive attack through the lightning-fast Kelm, who slipped the ball to Conall Jones in front of goal. A rash challenge on the big full forward led to a penalty award, but Sean Quigley’s kick was brilliantly saved by Beggan.
And moments later, in a double blow, the Erne men had defender Lee Cullen dismissed on a straight red card.
However, they came roaring back to reduce the deficit to a point through Conall Jones with eight minutes to play, and they were still just a point adrift after Ciaran Corrigan cancelled out a Jack McCarron free.
But Monaghan punished a bad kick-out, for Hughes to send Conor McCarthy in to punch to the net deep into stoppage time for a clinching score.
And in a bad-tempered finish to the game, Fermanagh had Paul McCusker and James McMahon sent off, finishing with 12 men.
R Beggan (0-1, f); K Duffy (0-1), V Corey (0-1), R Wylie; K O’Connell, C Boyle, D Ward; N Kearns, K Hughes (0-2); R McAnespie (0-1), D Malone, S Carey; C McCarthy (0-1), F Kelly, C McManus (0-2, 1f).
J McCarron (0-1, f) for Carey (46), D Mone for Ward (51), D Wylie for Corey (57), S O’Hanlon for McManus (BC 59), M Banningan for Malone (65)
J McGrath; J Cassidy, C Cullen, L Cullen; U Kelm, J McMahon, K Connor; A Breen, R Jones; D Teague (0-1), R Lyons (1-1, 0-1f), C Corrigan (0-1); D McCusker (0-1), C Jones (0-1), B Mulrone.
S Quigley (0-1, f) for Teague (35), K McDonnell for Mulrone (42), P McCusker for Breen (61), D McGurn for Connor (66), S McGullion for McDonnell (68), C McBrien for Lyons (72)
M Deegan (Laois).