ARMAGH kept their promotion hopes alive despite pressing the self-destruct button against a gritty Tipperary outfit at Crossmaglen yesterday.
Ahead by 1-9 to 0-1 at the break, with Gareth Swift's well-taken goal the final piece of first-half action, the Ulstermen went adrift in the third quarter.
Despite playing against 14 men, following Derek Bourke's 28th-minute dismissal, they lapsed into a catalogue of errors that almost had disastrous consequences.
Two gift-wrapped goals from Barry Grogan in the 45th and 63rd minutes provided Tipperary with the momentum that sustained their gallant second-half recovery and underlined Armagh's defensive deficiencies -- which must be addressed before the vital promotion battle with Donegal on Sunday week.
The visitors' industry, covering and opportunism made life difficult for Armagh, but the home side did manage to win 1-15 to 2-8.
Michael Murphy was the star of the show again for Donegal as they defeated 13-man Meath in Ballybofey, 1-12 to 0-10.
Losing Peadar Byrne to a second yellow before the break, Meath had to play the final 13 minutes with 13 men when Martin Sludden dismissed Brian Meade for a high challenge on Murphy.
The sides were level at the break 0-6 each as Shane O'Rourke and Joe Sheridan hit good points, but when Murphy fired to the net in the 41st minute it seemed as if Donegal would win easily.
However, Meath responded to get back within a point and, but for the second dismissal, the final scoreline might have been different.
"Losing the two men made life hard for them (Meath). But in fairness to the referee I don't think he had any choice," said Donegal manager, John Joe Doherty.
Down protected their unbeaten record with ease thanks to a 2-15 to 0-8 win over already relegated Westmeath at Cusack Park yesterday afternoon. James McCartan's men dominated right from the off, despite Westmeath having wind advantage in the first half.
The winners were very wasteful early on and should have been much more than two points to the good by the time Ambrose Rodgers rounded off a fine move with a great goal from 15 metres on the quarter-hour mark.
An outclassed home side were fortunate to trail by only eight points at the break, with James McCartan's charges leading by 1-8 to 0-3.
The Mournemen continued to dominate on the change of ends and an inevitable second goal duly arrived in the 48th minute, Mark Poland palming the ball to the net.