STEPHEN CLYNCH'S late goal from a 20-metre free helped Meath to a dramatic victory in Newry.
Clynch's strike drew the sides level for the seventh time with three minutes remaining and completed a fine personal tally of 1-12 before Paddy Conneely sent over the winning point for Cillian Farrell's men as the clock ticked into injury-time.
The exchanges were tight throughout and developed into a shoot-out between Clynch and Down's Paul Braniff, who finshed with 1-10.
The Mourne men led by 1-7 to 0-9 at the interval, with Braniff scoring Down's goal from a penalty in the 15th minute, and he also sent over five frees, while James Coyle accounted for the hosts' other score of the half.
The pace picked up considerably in the second half, with Barry Slevin's goal giving Meath a brief lead.
Man of the Match: S Clynch (Meath)
SCORERS – Meath: S Clynch 1-12 (1-7f, 0-1 '65'), B Slevin 1-1, P Durnin 0-2, P Conneely 0-1. Down: P Braniff 1-10 ( 1-0 pen, 0-5f, 0-2 '65', 0-1 sl), D Toner 0-3, S Nicholson 0-2, C O'Prey, J Coyle, M Ennis 0-1 each.
MEATH – S McGann; C Reilly, W Mahady, R Hatton; S Heavey, J Toher, S Brennan; S Morris, J Kelly; P Durnin, S Clynch, P Conneely; A Gannon, E Marsh, B Slevin. Subs: J Meyler for Kelly (43), G Kelly for Durnin (67).
DOWN – S Keith; C O'Prey, P Flynn, P Hughes; B Toner, C Coulter, F Conway; A Savage, A O'Prey; E Clarke, M Ennis, M Turley; J Coyle, P Braniff, T Toner. Subs: S Nicholson for B Toner (h-t), M Hughes for P Hughes (h-t), G Johnston for Clarke (55), P Sheehan for Coyle (55).
REF – E Hasson (Derry)