McLoughlin gets reward for Mayo patience
Mayo 1-10 Tyrone 0-12
With the stalemate that evolved over the last quarter, it was always going to take something special to divide them and Mayo's Kevin McLoughlin duly delivered just that, launching a confident kick on the back of the breeze to exploit one of the rare chinks of light in the Tyrone defence as the clock approached 72 minutes.
There was still time for three minutes more with a few stoppages in that added time too but with the nature of the game, so tight, tactical and tense, that one point always felt, as it sailed into a deep blue sky above Healy Park, that it would settle it.
The victory leaves Mayo's Division 1 fate in their own hands. In the expectancy that Cavan will beat Roscommon, they still must win or draw at home to Donegal to be safe.
They had to respond after back-to-back defeats to Dublin and Cavan that had been potentially crippling for different reasons and they did it with a hugely economic effort. In a game of such small margins, they'll look back at a couple of moments at the other end of the field that preserved them.
Tom Parsons, a towering figure throughout, and Colm Boyle both made clinical tackles on Seán Cavanagh in promising positions to clear the danger.
Tyrone had 15 wides throughout but it was perhaps those shots that dropped short into the breeze that ultimately condemned them here.
Peter Harte from a free, Colm Cavanagh with the best opportunity of all and defender Padraig Hampsey all underclubbed in the closing stages.
Everything magnified in those closing 18 minutes after the impressive Mark Bradley had brought Tyrone level, 0-12 to 1-9, with his third point in the 57th minute; McLoughlin's was the only subsequent score.
In all, Tyrone had 15 second-half scoring opportunities and took four. Mayo had five and mined the same amount. No other statistic is really required.
"There's no doubt we created enough chances to get something out of the game but if the ball doesn't go between the posts, it doesn't work. So there's learning in that for us," reflected Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.
Despite its tactical nature, where bodies flooded back to defend on both sides, it was relentless and exhaustive and players from both sides looked visibly shattered in the closing minutes as temperatures soared.
With Mayo goalkeeper David Clarke especially focusing on quick, short kick-outs to his corners, a breath was hard to catch.
In many respects, it played out similar to their All-Ireland quarter-final last summer with Tyrone again reflecting on an absence of clinical play.
Harte has perhaps grown weary of being asked about black cards shown to his players that clearly weren't. Niall Sludden's 17th-minute dismissal goes to the head of that category.
There appeared to be no intent when he took down Lee Keegan but curiously referee Conor Lane removed one of the players that looked like he could really influence things for the home side.
"There's no point talking about that. I think people would reflect on that and say that's the problem with the black card," said Harte.
"When people get them when there shouldn't be one, they're difficult to stomach. He was a huge loss to us because he's a very creative player and he would have revelled in that second half."
Having sent off Sludden for a tackle of that nature the standard was set and Keegan himself quickly followed when he took down Ronan McNabb, allowing Seán Cavanagh to convert for a 0-6 to 0-4 lead.
It was the only time Tyrone got more than a point ahead of Mayo who responded quickly with their most flowing move, Cillian O'Connor's pinpoint pass to Andy Moran in behind in the 28th minute creating the opening to Parsons coming in at pace and he finished with aplomb.
The goal gave Mayo a 1-6 to 0-8 interval lead and with the wind they should have been more comfortable after that. But Tyrone always seemed to have an edge in pace and penetration through players like Bradley, Kieran McGeary and later Tiernan McCann and Conor Meyler, Sludden's replacement.
Mayo got Aidan O'Shea into the action for the first time this season while Diarmuid O'Connor also returned and the Young Footballer of the Year played his part, winning the free that allowed brother Cillian to make it 1-9 to 0-11 in the 56th minute.
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford didn't think it was a "game for the purists" but felt relief that they had come through.
"We probably turned over the ball a little bit easy. It is something we have been trying to work on and certainly haven't nailed it, but against packed defence and really tight structure that Tyrone bring, we still got 11 scores."
Their heart is till very much beating.
Scorers - Mayo: C O'Connor 0-5 (3fs, 1 '45), T Parsons 1-0, K McLoughlin, P Durcan 0-2 each, S Nally 0-1. Tyrone: M Bradley 0-3, S Cavanagh, P Harte, K McGeary all 0-2 each, N Sludden, N Morgan (f), T McCann all 0-1 each.
Mayo - D Clarke 8; C Barrett 7, B Harrison 7, K Higgins 7; P Durcan 7, L Keegan 5, C Boyle 7; T Parsons 8, D Kirby 6; F Boland 5, S Nally 6, D Drake 5; K McLoughlin 8, A Moran 6, C O'Connor 7. Subs: S Coen 6 for Keegan (BC, 25), D O'Connor 7 for Boland (44), D Vaughan 6 for Kirby (BC, 53), A O'Shea 6 for Moran (54), J Doherty for Drake (63), C O'Shea for Nally (65).
Tyrone - N Morgan 7; P Hampsey 6, C McCarron 7, R McNamee 6; A McRory 7, R McNabb 7, T McCann 7; C Cavanagh 6, M Donnelly 7; P Harte 6, N Sludden 7, K McGeary 7; D McCurry 7, S Cavanagh 6, M Bradley 8. Subs: C Meyler 7 for Sludden (17), C McShane 6 for McNamee (52), H Loughran 5 for McNabb (55), J Monroe for McRory (69).
Ref - C Lane (Cork)