A game that was supposed to confirm Down's ascent to Division One turned out to be a pretty one-sided win for the visitors, who put themselves firmly in the promotion hunt in Pairc Esler on Saturday night.
Goals in the final quarter from impressive half-time sub Bryan Menton and Padraic Harnan put the gloss on a well-deserved victory for Meath, whose composed display sets up Sunday's home clash with Cavan as a potential promotion decider.
Both sides were guilty of poor shooting, particularly Down who kicked 15 wides and dropped another seven or eight balls short. Regardless of whether promotion talk had unsettled Down or not, it was a feeble performance from a usually potent attack, with Kevin McKernan the only starting forward to score from play.
Meath, dominant in midfield with Conor Gillespie making a number of clean catches, reeled off four points in a row early on to give them a commanding cushion they never surrendered.
The Royals led by 0-6 to 0-4 and it should have been more. Shane O'Rourke impressed at full-forward before going off at half-time, Mick O'Dowd failing to clarify afterwards whether his and Kevin Reilly's withdrawal had been tactical or not.
Half-time sub Menton had a huge impact, however, scoring 1-2 from play, including the decisive opening goal after 56 minutes.
Three Meath subs combined, Stephen Bray's first touch feeding Mickey Newman before Menton buried the ball low into the net.
Down subs Jerome Johnston and Caolan Mooney responded with points but Meath drove straight through the Down defence, opening them up and picking off points into the wind.
The wet, stormy conditions probably favoured the bigger, stronger side but Meath made their own luck with a controlled performance. A valuable away win was already secure long before Harnan palmed the ball into the net for a second goal in the 68th minute.
It condemned Down to a second home defeat of the campaign, a result they dare not repeat against Laois on Sunday.
"Our form at home has not been good in terms of results or how we've been playing," admitted manager Jim McCorry.
"That is certainly something we're going to have to correct for next week because it's a do or die one for us."
Mick O'Dowd was delighted to make amends for the disappointment of losing to Roscommon last week.
"It was the character they showed. They battled for every ball," he said. "We knew what was on offer and it means we're in the promotion mix now."
Man of the Match: Bryan Menton (Meath)
Scorers - Down: P Devlin 0-3 (2f), K McKernan 0-2, D O'Hare 0-2 (2f), J Johnston 0-1, C Mooney 0-1, D O'Hanlon 0-1. Meath: B Menton 1-2, P Harnan 1-1, M O'Sullivan 0-3 (3f), P O'Rourke 0-1 (a '45') S O'Rourke 0-1, C Gillespie 0-1, E Wallace 0-1, J Wallace 0-1.
Down - S Kane; G Collins, L Howard, D Turley; P Devlin, D O'Hanlon, C Maginn; P Turley, R Mallon; C McGovern, K McKernan, M Poland; C Laverty, A McConville, D O'Hare. Subs: R Johnston for Maginn (44), C Mooney for McConville (44), J Johnston for Poland (BC, 47), B McArdle for P Turley (59).
Meath - P O'Rourke; D Tobin, C Magill, D Keogan; M Burke, K Reilly, B Power; C Gillespie, A Flanagan; G Reilly, P Harnan, J McEntee; E Wallace, S O'Rourke, M O'Sullivan. Subs: B Menton for K Reilly (HT), M Newman for S O'Rourke (HT), D Dalton for Power (BC, 54), S Bray for Wallace (55), J Wallace for O'Sullivan (62), S Tobin for Gillespie (70).
Ref - Barry Cassidy (Derry).