The expected turkey shoot never materialised at Austin Stack Park in Tralee where it took Galway the best part of an hour to subdue the Kingdom, with the visitors pulling clear in the final minutes by outscoring the home side 0-10 to 0-3.
The game also signalled Joe Canning's first start of year after his lengthy injury lay-off and he did not disappoint, top-scoring with 0-9. He also should have been credited a goal when his bullet-like drive beat Martin Stackpoole and hit the goalkeeper's hurls in the net and came back out but the umpires never saw it.
But it was better from Kerry than in recent outings, as manager Fintan O'Connor explained: "It was a positive performance in that we set ourselves a target of not conceding as many goals and we did that, albeit with the help of two nice umpires, but we will take all the help we can get. Jordan Conway was outstanding and we are now in good shape for our crucial meeting with Offaly."
Galway boss Micheál Donoghue was not happy with his side's first-half show. "There was a strong wind but in fairness to Kerry they came out of the traps fast and our boys did not respond. We had to grind to go in three points up at half-time but we came out in the second-half and had a better performance."
Conway was superb in a two-man Kerry full-forward line and they were on level terms approaching the interval when Padraig Brehony struck the game's only goal in the 34th minute as Galway retired 1-7 to 0-7 in front. Canning and cathal Mannion punished Kerry after that.
The Kerry defence held the Tribesmen to a six-point gap after 55 minutes but a late Galway surge clinched a 13-point victory.
Scorers - Galway: J Canning 0-9 (6f)), C Mannion 0-5, P Brehony 1-0, N Burke and P Flaherty 0-2 each, Daithi Burke, G McInerney , S Maloney, and C Whelan 0-1 each. Kerry: S Nolan 0-6 (6f), J Conway 0-2, C Harty, P Boyle, K Carmody, B O'Leary 0-1 each.
Kerry - M Stackpoole 7; J O'Connor 7, R Horgan 7, S Weir 7; D Collins 8, B Murphy 7, D Dineen 8; J Goulding 7, P O'Connor 8; S Nolan 8, P Kelly 6, C Harty 7; J Conway 8, P Boyle 7, J Buckley 7. Subs: B O'Leary 7 for P Kelly (43), T Murnane 6 for P Boyle (53), K Carmody 6 for P O'Connor (61), T O'Connor 6 for J Goulding (66), J Godley for J Buckley (70).
Galway - J Skehill 7; P Mannion 7, P Killeen 8, J Grealish 6; Daithí Burke 7, A Tuohy 7, G McInerney 8; J Coen 7, P Brehony 7; David Burke 6, N Burke 6, P Flaherty 7; S Maloney 6, J Canning 9, C Mannion 8. Subs: M Donohoe 7 for J Grealish (h-t), C Cooney 6 for S Moloney (53), C Whelan 6 for P Flaherty (53).
Ref - C Lyons (Cork)