Conor Laverty and Paul’s Devlin’s first-half goals helped Down into a 2-7 to 0-8 interval lead, before sub Arthur McConville netted a third goal in the 53rd minute.
The win was a lot more comfortable for Down than the scoreline suggests, with Ross Munnelly converting a last minute penalty for Laois.
Evan O’Carroll gave an exhibition of scoring from placed balls, nailing five long-range frees and two ‘45s.
Down manager Jim McCorry was delighted with promotion in his first season.
“A lot of people maybe didn’t give our guys the credit they deserved and thought it was going to be consolidation in Division Two at best this year, so it’s heartening.”
“I know there might have been some doubters with some of our late wins, stealing results at the end but you play right to the end and our guys fought right to the end in all the games.”
Laois boss Tomás Ó Flathárta was relieved to stave off the threat of relegation, admitting: “it looked last Sunday that we were in line for promotion but today we were looking at the bottom of the table”.
He added: “We were under pressure at the start of the league but there was great unity, no bitching among the players, and what we learned is that we have great character and fight in the team. Even today we saw that.”
Laois led 0-3 to 0-1 after 11 minutes but Down responded with an unanswered 1-2 inside three minutes.
Caolan Mooney’s hand-pass took out two defenders and Conor Laverty dummied the goalkeeper before tapping the ball into an empty net after 12 minutes.
Laois responded, hitting four points in a row in a six-minute spell.
Darren Strong’s excellent long-range point was followed by frees from Munnelly and O’Carroll before midfielder John O’Loughlin popped up with a score to put them back ahead (0-8 to 1-4) after 26 minutes.
Down moved the ball very well and one of their best interchanges led to goal number two in the 32nd minute.
Paul Devlin exchanged passes with Donal O’Hare and Mark Poland before palming the ball into the net for an easy finish.
The intensity went out of the game in the second half but Laois hung in, largely through the accuracy of O’Carroll and Munnelly.
Down sub Arthur McConville bagged his team’s third goal after 53 minutes after Kevin McKernan’s shot was parried by Graham Brody. The hosts, perhaps feeling they had done enough to ensure victory and promotion, only scored two more points in the final quarter while Laois hit 1-3 in the same period, Munnelly converting a last minute penalty after Brendan Quigley was fouled by Conall McGovern.
P Devlin 1-2 (2f), C Laverty 1-1, A McConville 1-0, C Mooney, C McGovern, C Maginn 0-2 each, G Collins, M Poland 0-1 each, D O’Hare 0-1 (f).
E O’Carroll 0-7 (5f, 2 ‘45’s), R Munnelly 1-4 (pen, 3f), D Strong, R Kehoe, J O’Loughlin, N Donoher 0-1 each
S Kane; G Collins, L Howard, D Turley; D O’Hagan, B McArdle, C McGovern; P Turley, P Devlin; C Maginn, K McKernan, M Poland; C Laverty, C Mooney, D O’Hare.
A McConville for P Turley (45), N Madine for Maginn (57), R Johnston for Mooney (60), A Carr for McKernan (63), P Fitzpatrick for O’Hare (67).
G Brody; D O’Connor, M Timmons, S Attride; D Strong, R Kehoe, C Begley; B Quigley, J O’Loughlin; N Donoher, C Boyle, E O’Carroll; R Munnelly, B Sheehan, T Shiel.
J Finn for Shiel (48), P Begley for Boyle (55), P Kingston for Sheehan (61), C Kelly for O’Carroll (70)
Rory Hickey (Clare).