Despite playing with only 14 men for over 50 minutes, a spirited Westmeath team eked out a one-point win over Louth in Mullingar.
In addition to a straight red for Doran Harte, the game also yielded 18 yellow cards (12 of them to Louth).
Playing with the wind in the first half, Louth's Adrian Reid found the net in the eighth minute, to add to Jim McEneaney's point after just 15 seconds. With Ger Egan prominent, Westmeath rallied well, with two frees and the outstanding Callum McCormack pointing from play to reduce the gap.
However, a scrambled goal from Colm Judge in the 19th minute, quickly followed by Harte's red card, put the hosts in trouble. Shane Lennon was a real handful for the Westmeath defence and at half-time Louth deservedly led by 2-4 to 0-7.
Louth introduced Paddy Keenan for the second half and a brace of early scores stretched their lead to five points. Westmeath soon sprung an ex-All Star of their own in Dessie Dolan and his influence was quickly apparent in a more cohesive attack.
Helped by a very poor wide from a free in 53rd minute by McEneaney, Westmeath clawed their way back but were unable to take the lead, and a draw looked likely with the sides level with five minutes of normal time remaining.
However, in the 70th minute, John Heslin coolly pointed a 45-metre free and he repeated the feat two minutes later. Louth tried to manufacture a late goal – but Lennon's last-gasp point proved insufficient.
Man of the Match: C McCormack (Westmeath)
Scorers – Westmeath: J Heslin (5f), C McCormack 0-5 each, D Glennon 0-3, K Martin 0-2f, Dessie Dolan 0-1. Louth: S Lennon 0-4, A Reid 1-1, C Judge 1-0, J McEneaney 0-2 (1f), A McDonnell, D Reid 0-1 each.
Westmeath – G Connaughton 6; M McCallon 6, K Gavin 6, K Maguire 6; M Curley 5, P Sharry 7, D Harte 4; P Bannon 6, J Heslin 7; G Egan 7, C McCormack 8, K Martin 7; R Foley 5, J Dolan 6, D Glennon 7. Subs: Dessie Dolan 7 for Bannon (42), Damien Dolan 6 for Curley (60), D Corroon 5 for Curley (60).
Louth – N Gallagher 6; P Rath 5, D Finnegan 6, G Hoey 6; A Reid 7, D Crilly 5, J O'Brien 6; R Carroll 6, B Donnelly 6; A McDonnell 6, J McEneaney 7, C Rafferty 5; C Judge 6, S Lennon 7, K Rogers 6. Subs: D Reid 6 for Judge (24), P Keenan 7 for Carroll (h-t), R Finnegan 6 for Rafferty (h-t), P Smith 5 for Rogers (59).
Ref – G McCormack (Dublin)