A shock looked in store as Castlegar led Loughrea by four points with 12 minutes left on the clock in Kenny Park on Sunday evening.
However, in an enjoyable group C game, a terrific late Neil Keary goal, which was created by a strong run by county player Johnny Coen, changed the outlook drastically and put the wind back in Loughrea's sails.
Keary, who had a fine game for Loughrea and scored 1-5, including a side line cut, then won a free, which veteran full-forward Johnny Coen converted, and the sides ended all-square at 2-13 each.
Loughrea will face Craughwell, who have no points, in the final group game, while Cashel will face Kinvara, knowing a draw will see them into the quarter-finals.
Last Sunday they had sterling displays from Ger Farragher (0-8 ), goal-keeper Johnny Murphy, who made some good saves, Dean Higgins (1-1 ), Donal McGreal, centre-forward Enda Concannon (1-2 ), and Tomas Mannion.
The 2006 county champions had good performances from Johnny Coen, Johnny Maher, who hit five points from frees, Gavin Keary at midfield, and Neil Keary.
The other game in group C saw Craughwell beaten 1-18 to 2-12 by Kinvara. After two consecutive defeats Craughwell are out of this year's championship.
Clarinbridge beat Portumna
Elsewhere, the big shock of the weekend was Clarinbridge, who were 13/2 outsiders with Mulhollands, beating Portumna by 1-14 to 0-14 in group A.
Paul Coen was the star for the 2010 All-Ireland club champions, hitting 1-11 for the Bridge. His goal from a penalty following a foul on Barry Daly was the decisive score in the game. That victory sees Clarinbridge top of group A, and they will face current All-Ireland champions St Thomas in the final group game - in a winner-takes-all scenario.
Portumna will still qualify for the quarter-finals, assuming they defeat Killimordaly in their final group outing.
The other tie in group A saw St Thomas ensure their title aspirations are back on track with a good win over Killimordaly.
Conor Cooney hit the net in the first half to settle the champions after an unconvincing start, and the Galway star finished strongly with a tally of 1-7 as John Burke’s side showed brief glimpses of the form that led them to a first Galway senior crown last year.
Pearses top group
Ardrahan and Padraig Pearses became the first two sides to reach the 2013 quarter-finals after both clubs enjoyed convincing victories.
A goalin both halves from Gary Lally and a Fergal Flannery penalty gave Pearses a 2-11 to 0-14 victory over Beagh and they topgroup D on four points. The second quarter-finalist will come from either Beagh or Kiltormer.
In group B Ardrahan eventually clinched their spot in the last eight with a 2-9 to 2-8 win over Gort, while Turloughmore had an impressive 2-18 to 0-17 victory over Mullagh.
The hurlers of Athenry did their chances of staying senior for next season a world of good last weekend when they defeated fellow relegation candidates Moycullen at Pearse Stadium by 4-11 to 2-13.
Moycullen are due to face Liam Mellows in the next round on July 14.
In the other relegation group Carnmore drew with Sarsfields by 0-12 to 0-12. Carnmore will face Tynagh-Abbey-Duniry in the next round, also on July 14.
The top two teams in each group will go into the Shield competition, and the bottom two teams in the relegation groups will play in two semi-finals, and then a final to see who will be intermediate in 2014.