After leading Limerick for 58 minutes, Down collapsed in the final 12 as the Munster men came from behind -- scoring a goal and nine points to a single point by Down -- to retain their spot at the top of the table.
Played in bitterly cold conditions with a very strong breeze, Down took advantage of the elements. They pressurised the Limerick defence, scoring two well executed goals and lobbing over excellent points. However, Limerick's greater experience and power in the final stages gave them a flattering 11-point victory margin.
The sides were level at 0-2 each after 10 minutes with James Coyle scoring both Down points and Sean Tobin and Niall Maher replying for Limerick.
Down went ahead after 12 minutes with a Scott Nicholson goal and with Coyle and Benny Ennis scoring two points each, they took control.
A second Down goal after 20 minutes by Aidan Clarke saw them lead by 2-6 to 0-8 with Richie McCarthy keeping Limerick in touch with four pointed frees.
Points were then exchanged three more times as Down led by 2-8 to 0-11 at half-time. Assisted by the breeze in the second period, Limerick were level 12 minutes after the break with points from Tom Condon, Richie McCarthy and Sean Tobin.
Down responded strongly, though, and took the lead with a James Coyle point and when he added another the hosts were still in control. But a Pat Tobin goal, from a lob by Donal O'Grady, saw Limerick take the lead for the first time with 12 minutes left.
This score ignited them and they produced a brilliant flourish with points flowing from James Ryan, Brian Geary, Sean and Pat Tobin, James Ryan and substitutes Thomas O'Brien and Niall Moran to a single point by Andy Savage as Limerick finished in style and secured the league points.
Down's Coyle, who lobbed over six points, spoiled a brilliant personal display when two minutes from time he was dismissed for a second yellow card offence.
Man of the Match: Donal O'Grady (Limerick)
scorers -- Limerick: P Tobin 1-3, R McCarthy 0-5, S Tobin 0-4; D O'Grady, J Ryan, B Geary 0-3 each, K Downes, T O'Brien, N Moran, T Condon 0-1 each. Down: J Coyle 0-6, S Nicholson 1-1, A Clarke 1-0, B Ennis 0-2, A Savage, C Woods 0-1 each.
Down -- G Clarke 7; M Hughes 5, F Conway 8, S Ennis 6; K McGarry 6, C Woods 6, M Ennis 6; A Savage 7, E Clarke 6; A O'Prey 5, A Clarke 5, J Coyle 8; S Nicholson 7, B Ennis 8, C Mageean 5. Subs: D Toner for C Mageean (60), M Conlon for S Nicholson (67).
Limerick -- B Murray 7; T Condon 8, G O'Mahoney 7, D Maloney 6; W McNamara 6, B Geary 8, D Breen 7; D O'Grady 9, P O'Brien 7; R McCarthy, J Ryan 8, D, Maher 7; P Tobin 8, K Downes 6, S Tobin 8. Subs: N Moran 7 for N Maher (48), M O'Riordan 6 for P O'Brien (50), T O'Brien 6 for R McCarthy (62).
Ref -- E Elliott (Antrim).