BRYAN SHEEHAN came to the Kingdom's rescue yesterday as his last-gasp free salvaged a 1-12 to 1-12 draw in a feisty Division 1 encounter in Tralee.
With Mayo, in confident form following their impressive victory over Dublin the previous weekend, surging into an eight-point lead (1-8 to 0-3) at one stage of the first half, Kerry needed to call on all their experience, and big names off the bench, to snatch a hard-fought draw.
But while Paul Galvin, Darran O'Sullivan, Marc ó Sé and Declan O'Sullivan were all drafted in to rescue Kerry, it was midfielder Sheehan who broke 14-man Mayo's hearts, scoring a second-half penalty after Colm Cooper was fouled, as well as that injury-time leveller.
"We started off poorly and gave them an eight-point lead but we were determined to keep the run that we are on at the moment going for as long as we can, so it was good to come back and get the draw," said Kerry manager Jack O'Connor.
Mayo manager James Horan couldn't help feeling like his side had let the win slip from them.
"That (red card for Lee Keegan on 46 minutes) affected us as we ran out of juice and Kerry came on strong," he said.
"We could have hung on for the win if we had made better decisions near the end."
It took one of the best second-half displays of the season for Donegal to maintain their top-flight status in Ballybofey with a 0-13 to 0-10 victory over Armagh.
In difficult conditions, the Orchard County's half-time lead of 0-7 to 0-5 did not flatter them.
It didn't look good for Donegal when Michael Stevenson struck again for two more frees at the start of the second half, but Armagh could add only one more point in the final 32 minutes.
Donegal gradually took control and good points from Colm McFadden and corner-back Frank McGlynn had them level with 10 minutes left.
Rory Kavanagh pointed them in front for the first time and they looked the better side in the closing stages as they sealed the victory.
"Their mentality in the second half was brilliant -- they delivered in spades," said Donegal manager Jim McGuinness.
O'Moore Park was a scene of mixed emotions yesterday as visitors Down left with a place in the semi-finals thanks to their 2-11 to 0-10 win, while a dejected Laois were relegated back to Division 2 after one season in the top flight.