A late surge proved decisive for 14-man Meath as they registered a crucial win over a valiant Wicklow side at Páirc Tailteann.
The hosts outscored their opponents 11 points to one in the final 15 minutes and had led by the minimum when Alan Douglas was red-carded on 64 minutes. With Pádraig O'Hanrahan continuing to excel from placed balls, Meath extended their advantage before the finish. O'Hanrahan ended with a personal tally of 16 points.
Meath made a great start to proceedings with a goal inside 30 seconds. However, it was the visitors who had the edge in the first-half exchanges with the breeze and at the break they led by 2-13 to 2-9.
The goals arrived in the space of 30 seconds in the opening quarter with full-forward Andy O'Brien blasting a bullet hit to the net to level the teams at 1-3 each. The resultant puck-out went astray and Eoin McCormack pounced to put his side ahead.
Meath 'keeper Charlie Ennis twice came to his side's rescue before half-time. Wicklow maintained their advantage throughout the third quarter and stretched their lead to 3-17 to 2-13 with a Pádraig Doyle goal on 54 minutes. However, the home side rallied and drew level following a Peter Slevin point on 61 minutes and maintained their advantage thanks to O'Hanrahan's accuracy.
Scorers - Meath: P O'Hanrahan 0-16 (12f, 1 '65); J Regan 1-3 (1-0 pen); E Ó Donnchadha 1-1; J Toher, P Slevin, D Healy, A Healy 0-1 each. Wicklow: A O'Brien 1-9 (7f, 1 '65); E McCormack, P Doyle 1-2 each; J Doyle 0-2; C McNally (f), P Keane, D Staunton 0-1 each.
Meath - C Ennis 7; S Geraghty 7, M Burke 6, S Brennan 7; K Keoghan 7, J Toher 7, S Morris 5; A Douglas 6, P Potterton 7; D Healy 7, E Ó Donnchadha 7, P O'Hanrahan 9; N Potterton 6, J Regan 8, M Slevin 6. Subs: C O'Sullivan 6 for Morris (33), A Healy 6 for Slevin (44), P Slevin 6 for N Potterton (49).
Wicklow - C McNally 7; W Kavanagh 7, B Kearney 7, M O'Brien 7; G Byrne 7, B Cuddihy 7, P Keane 7; E Kearns 7, J Henderson 7; J Doyle 7, E McCormack 8, D Staunton 7; E Donohue 7, A O'Brien 9, P Doyle 8. Subs: L Evan 6 for J Doyle (60),
Ref - S Hynes (Galway)