In the end there was no denying that Waterford, as expected, were superior. They made five changes from the team beaten by Tipperary a fortnight earlier for last night's trip to a venue where they had failed to win a competitive game since 2008, and eventually their surplus experience over a still callow and experimental opposition told.
They took a while to control the match, for which Dublin must take some credit. The home team began nervously, with Stephen Bennett netting the first of his two goals after six minutes. The score had an element of luck about it as Pauric Mahony's free hit an upright and fell favourably in Bennett's domain, catching Dublin flat-footed. Bennett, who scored 2-2, finished tidily with a groundstroke and Dublin trailed 1-1 to 0-0 and looked in bother.
But they responded well. Eamonn Dillon buzzed about and finished the half with four points from play, while Ryan O'Dwyer caused Waterford problems under the high ball. From one such delivery, Dublin got their goal, Donal Burke ghosting in behind a herd of players and finishing well in the 20th minute. That strike had Dublin five points clear, and they had chances to improve on it, but Burke, a county minor last year, was wide with three frees which he would expect to score. To win Dublin needed almost everything running their way.
Mahony missed three frees too but they didn't have the same deflating effect, two coming late when the match was more or less won. He closed his evening account with 0-12, ten of those from dead balls, underlining his reputation as one of the game's best marksmen. Dublin defended well for much of the game, and Eoghan O'Donnell was again excellent, but Mahony still hurt them, being reliable from most distances and angles.
Errors also hurt Dublin. Leading 1-10 to 1-8 at half time, they lost their grip on the match soon after the restart when Conor Dooley forfeited the ball when coming away from his goal. Bennett collected and returned it to an unguarded net. Coming just two minutes in, the charitable score handed Waterford a lead which they never relinquished. Dublin refused to give up, but Waterford stepped up their intensity and some of their marquee players raised their performances and began to boss the physical exchanges, Tadhg de Burca increasing his influence as the game wore on.
Bennett followed his second goal with a point, and another from Mahony opened a three-point lead, but it as met with a smart response from Dublin, O'Dwyer and Burke raising white flags to leave just one between them 13 minutes after the interval. From there to the hour mark, however, Waterford tightened their command, outpointing Dublin ten to three.
Waterford finished with 14 men when Stephen Daniels was sent off on a second yellow card in stoppage-time.
The victory, their second of the campaign, puts Waterford back in the frame for a quarter-final place with two rounds remaining. Dublin, without their Cuala players until after St Patrick's Day, head to Ennis next weekend to face Clare.
Come their final round tie against Kilkenny in Parnell Park on March 26 they may be aiming to avoid a relegation play-off, but will be better equipped to handle the challenge with some of the more seasoned corps back on duty.
Scorers - Waterford: P Mahony 0-12 (10fs); Stephen Bennett 2-2; K Moran, A Gleeson 0-2 each, M Shanahan 0-1. Dublin: D Burke 1-7 (0-7fs); E Dillon 0-4; R O'Dwyer, R McBride 0-2 each; C Crummey, N McMorrow 0-1 each.
Waterford: I O'Regan; N Connors, B Coughlan, S Fives; C Gleeson, T de Burca, S Daniels; J Barron, K Moran; M Walsh, Shane Bennett, P Mahony; A Gleeson, Stephen Bennett, P Curran. Subs: M Shanahan for Curran (49); M Kearney for Barron (50); B O'Halloran for Shane Bennett (61); J Dillon for Stephen Bennett (66); D Lyons for C Gleeson (67).
Dublin: C Dooley; J Madden, E O'Donnell, S Barrett; B Quinn, L Rushe, C Crummey; N McMorrow, C Conway; R McBride, E Dillon, E Conroy; F Mac Gib, R O'Dwyer, D Burke. Subs: C Boland for Conway (inj 47); C MacGabhann for Madden (55); C Bennett for Conroy (61); C O'Sullivan for Quinn (69); F Broin for Barrett (72).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).
Sunday Indo Sport