MARK Stanfield rolled back the years with a stoppage-time winner and was then sent off as 13man O'Connell's finished strongly to come through this pulsating Louth v Meath Leinster Club Intermediate semi-final.
The men from Castlebellingham kicked 2-4 of their tally in the first nine minutes as they came out all guns blazing on their home pitch, but eventually had to dig deep into their reserves to progress after an impressive Na Fianna comeback.
A promising start by O'Connell's saw Paul McKeever kick the opening two points from play, the second of those a superb effort from close to the touchline, but these were immediately cancelled out by a Conor Downey free and Harrison Silke point.
For the next five minutes, though, the Louth standard bearers hit a purple patch - or should that be maroon? - as they plundered 2-2 without reply to take a firm grip of the contest.
The first goal ensued when McKeever's long delivery towards the square was fumbled by keeper Shane Geraghty when under pressure. Cian Doyle grabbed the loose ball and although his low shot was blocked on the line, Salem Rifaie was on hand to divert the rebound to the net.
Straight from the kick-out the lively McKeever was fouled and converted the free himself, and O'Connell's then fashioned a superb second goal. Skipper Jackie Agnew lofted a superbly weighted pass over the Na Fianna defence for Cian Doyle who made a clean catch and then cut inside two back-tracking defenders before rifling a low shot under Geraghty.
McKeever converted another free in the ninth minute and O'Connell's were full value for their 2-4 to 0-2 lead at that stage.
Na Fianna were stunned and could have fallen further behind, but Robert Quigley and McKeever were wide from frees and a shot from the latter was saved by Geraghty after he had latched onto a Mark Stanfield pass.
A rare sortie upfield bore fruit for Na Fianna on 14 minutes, with Shane Barrett splitting the posts following good work by Dean Hendrick, but the Meath men were right back in contention when Dalton McDonagh got in behind his marker Conor Byrne and was impeded in the air, resulting in a penalty. Former Drogheda United star Barrett converted from the spot to leave Na Fianna trailing by only four points - 2-4 to 1-3.
The Stanfields then worked a quick free between them for Dean to kick a much-needed point for O'Connell's, but that was cancelled out by Daniel Queeney and the game's fourth goal then arrived in the 24th minute. An untimely slip by Jason Carroll left the O'Connell's defence badly exposed and Hendrick cleverly swapped passes with McDonagh before sliding a left-foot shot under the dive of keeper Stuart Reynolds.
O'Connell's held their nerve and Agnew then popped up from the half back line with an inspirational score - the last of an exciting first half - to leave Wayne McKeever's charges 2-6 to 2-4 ahead.
However, Na Fianna regained parity with the opening two points of the second period, courtesy of Barrett from a free that was brought forward, and then Daniel Queeney after the O'Connell's defence had illadvisedly allowed a long delivery to bounce.
Daniel continued to out-shine his county star brother Jamie and he kicked the lead point for Na Fianna on 41 minutes with a free taken from near the corner flag.
O'Connell's were at sixes and sevens and another long delivery bounced awkwardly for Reynolds who had to palm the ball away for a fruitless 45, before Andrew Shields saw red after earning himself a second booking following a fracas involving a number of players in the 44th minute.
By that stage Kildare referee Brendan Cawley had somehow managed to dish out a total of 10 cards, while missing a couple of other unsavoury incidents - he showed 13 cards in all - and Daniel Queeney kicked his third consecutive point to give Na Fianna a lead of two in the 47th minute.
O'Connell's rang the changes, the most significant being the introduction of Sean Connolly between the sticks, allowing Reynolds to vacate his goal and nullify Na Fianna's increasing dominance at midfield.
The tactic seemed to work and Andrew Sharkey ended a 23minute scoreless spell for the home side with a free, before Robert Quigley grabbed his first score of the day to bring the 14 men level at 2-8 apiece.
The Na Fianna goal then had a lucky escape when John Flanagan's shot was blocked on the line and Mark Stanfield's followup looked certain to go in until it too was scrambled clear.
Downey then kicked a point for the Meath men in the 52nd minute before missing the target from a free, but O'Connell's goose was almost cooked when Dean Stanfield was fouled and McKeever missed the resulting kick from right in front of the posts.
Urged on by their supporters, O'Connell's weren't finished yet, though, and after a Mark Stanfield shot had been deflected behind by the boot of John Baldwin, Reynolds kicked the resulting 45 to leave it 2-9 each with normal time over.
The Louth men had their tails up at this stage, despite their numerical disadvantage, and after Na Fianna were penalised for a throw-ball O'Connell's free was brought forward for dissent. With the watch showing 62 minutes Reynolds placed the ball down and from 60 metres out sent it in towards the square, the Meath defence couldn't clear their lines and Mark Stanfield pounced on the loose ball before driving it over the bar.
Seconds later he was sent to the touchline after receiving a second yellow card for a late challenge, but O'Connell's hung on for the remaining minute of injury time to record a famous victory that sends them into a Leinster final joust with Monasterevan in two weeks' time.
Stuart Reynolds 0-1 (45); Andrew Shields, Conor Byrne, Jason Carroll; Killian Shields, Jackie Agnew 0-1, Andrew Sharkey 0-1 (f); Mark Stanfield 0-1, Sean Cairnes; Salem Rifaie 1-0, John Flanagan, Dean Stanfield 0-1; Robert Quigley 0-1, Paul McKeever 0-4 (0-2f), Cian Doyle 1-0. Subs: David Doyle for Byrne (39min), Sean Connolly for C Doyle (44), PJ Tuite for Rifaie (45), Stephen Hoey for D Stanfield (57). NA FIANNA: Shane Geraghty; Diarmuid Bailey, Christy Cosgrave, Dean Hendrick 1-0; Michael Farley, Michael Foley, John Baldwin; Daniel Queeney 0-4 (0-1f), Jamie Queeney; Conor Downey 0-2 (01f), Harrison Silke 0-1, Brian Queeney; Shane Barrett 1-2 (1-0pen, 0-1f), Tommy Cosgrave, Dalton McDonagh. Sub: Ollie Lewis for Silke (55min). BOOKED: O'Connell's - A Shields (18 & 44min), Agnew (29), Byrne (34), C Doyle (36), M Stanfield (46, 60 +3), K Shields (55), Carroll (59); Na Fianna - D Queeney (17min), T Cosgrave 30+1), B Queeney (32), J Queeney (44). SENT OFF: O'Connell's - A Shields (44min), M Stanfield (60+3). REFEREE: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).