IT was a performance worthy of promotion but Kerry must wait another week to potentially claw their way out of this division.
A well-flagged anomaly in the current structures means that Kerry must fight it out with Offaly for a place in Division 1B next season – despite yesterday's gritty 2A final win over Carlow.
Manager Eamonn Kelly was in defiant mood in Thurles, insisting that his charges will fight "tooth and nail" against the Faithful County on Sunday.
But having watched his side come from six points down at half-time at Semple Stadium yesterday, Kelly faces a whole new challenge to get his players back up for another huge task.
In another year, this hard-fought three-point win would have been good enough to see Kerry jump a division.
And Tipperary native Kelly acknowledged: "It's the only division it's happening in but we can't do anything about that.
"We'll be fighting tooth and nail again the next day."
Two first-half goals from Marty Kavanagh and another from Denis Murphy handed Carlow a 3-6 to 0-9 lead at half-time in Thurles.
But second-half strikes from Colm Harty, John Egan and Shane Nolan (penalty) turned the game on its head as Kerry came roaring back in Thurles.
Carlow had a chance to claim a draw in the 69th-minute but Murphy saw his penalty saved and Kerry lifted the silverware.
Carlow boss John Meyler admitted: "Disappointed, can't say otherwise. Kerry were hungrier, they looked sharper, more up for it – that's it."
Regrettably, from a Kerry perspective, the job is only half done. But yesterday's 3/1 pre-match outsiders have character in abundance to give themselves a real chance.
Scorers – Carlow: D Murphy 1-5 (4fs), M Kavanagh 2-1, E Byrne 0-2, A Corcoran, D English (f), S Murphy, J Doyle, R Smithers 0-1 each. Kerry: S Nolan 1-6 (1-0 pen, 4fs), C Harty 1-2, J Egan 1-1, P Boyle, D Butler 0-2 each, D Dineen (1 sl), D O'Connell, D Collins 0-1 each.
CARLOW – B Treacy 6; G Kelly 6, P Doyle 6, A Corcoran 6; HP O'Byrne 6, R Coady 7, D English 6; J Kavanagh 6, D Byrne 6; S Murphy 6, M Brennan 5, S Kavanagh 6; M Kavanagh 8, E Byrne 7, D Murphy 7. Subs: J Doyle for Brennan (48), R Smithers (0-1) for Shane Kavanagh (53).
KERRY – T Flynn 6; B Murphy 7, T Murnane 7, K Carmody 5; S Weir 7; D Dineen 7, D O'Connell 8; J Griffin 7, J Egan 7; M Boyle 6, D Collins 7, C Harty 7; D Butler 7, P Boyle 7, S Nolan 8. Subs: T Casey 8 for Carmody (26), B Brosnan 6 for Griffin (54), B O'Leary n/a for P Boyle (67), A Boyle n/a for M Boyle (70).
Ref – F Horgan (Tipperary)