It took them a good while to get going, but in the end Mayo did more than enough to see off the challenge of Meath and leave themselves with a fighting chance of making it out of the Super 8s.
For long periods of the game Mayo were just that little bit off in their execution and it looked like it might cost them against a hardworking, if limited Meath side.
A 12 minute spell from the 50th to 62nd minute saw Mayo come from 0-11 to 0-10 behind to go into a 1-15 to 0-12 lead was the vital moments of the game.
The first half saw Mayo have plenty of possession and chances but fail to turn them into the required scores on the board - as they looked every bit a side who had been on the go for five weeks running.
The extra gears they found in the third quarter was springboard by the introduction of Andy Moran for Darren Coen at the break, the Hollymount-Carramore man had put in a good shift in the opening half - but the guile and experience of Moran along with his smart movement off the ball were all key ingredients of Mayo’s eventual drive to victory.
James Horan made three changes to the starting lineup he had announced on Friday night with Eoin O’Donohue, Keith Higgins and Ciaran Tracey coming out of the first 15 and were replaced by Chris Barrett, Kevin McLoughlin and Fergal Boland.
Barrett put in a tenacious display at the back and along with Aidan O’Shea and Colm Boyle, who rolled back the years once again in an all action display were all major tent poles in Mayo’s eventual victory. McLoughlin also won a number of tough possessions and was able to make it stick, while others had tough times keeping control of the ball.
Meath opened the scoring in the game through a Mickey Newman free six minutes in from close range after it was brought in an extra 13 meters. The went two points clear shortly afterwards when Byan Menton pointed after Aidan O’Shea hard turned over the ball with a sloppy handpass.
Mayo got the scoreboard moving in their favour just before the ten minute mark when Coen slipped one between the posts after he took on a shot when he had no other options after finding himself isolated in the Mayo attack.
Meath went 0-3 to 0-1 clear 12 minutes in through a James McEntee effort off his right boot - but Mayo responded quickly with Fionn McDonagh kicking two points on the bounce inside a minute.
Newman edged the Royal’s back in front on the quarter of an hour mark with some quick reactions to drive the ball over the bar from close range - it could have been much worse for Mayo from the move that led up to that score. Donal Keogan hit the line at pace and breezed past Seamus O’Shea and bore down on goal. He hit the ball low and David Clarke spread himself brilliantly to save the ball from hitting the net.
The returning Breaffy man made a cut through the Meath defence not long after and had a goal chance but he pulled it high and it came back off the post and was cleared to safety, but three minutes later Mayo were level again when Fergal Boland scooped the ball over after being picked out by Coen.
Jason Doherty put Mayo in front for the first time in the game 11 minutes before the break when he was was found by Colm Boyle. Cillian O’Connor put Mayo two clear with his first of the day from a free on 28 minutes and it looked like Mayo were about to take control of the game.
However Meath came back at Mayo with Cillian O’Sullivan pointing and Seamus Lavin getting one just before the break. The Royals were dealt a serious blow to their chances in between those scores with Newman having to leave the field due to injury.
The Leinister men were first to get the scoreboard going in the second half through a Shane Walsh free a minute in, Fergal Boland replied for Mayo with his second of the day a few seconds later. Meath then hit two on the bounce with James Conlon and Walsh kicking points to have Andy McEntee’s 0-10 to 0-8 clear.
Cillian O’Connor made sure Mayo were only a hairs breath away from their opponents on the scoreboard slotting over a free that was awarded after Seamus O’Shea was fouled - Walsh pushed the gap back out to two points with 46 minutes gone on the clock, but the game was about to turn dramatically in Mayo’s favour.
O’Connor kicked two in quick succession one from play and the other from a free to level it up, Lavin did put Meath back in front with a well taken score after he exploited a big hole in the Mayo defence.
Andy Moran kicked Mayo’s 12th of the day throwing in a quick-step dummy to make some space downtime the right, then Colm Boyle charged up from his rearguard position to pick the ball up on the run and fire Mayo back in front.
Lee Keegan then got in on the fun, acting quickly to pick up a ball at his feet before scooping it over the bar that was followed by a fine score from James Carr who had been introduced not long before hand to have Mayo leading by three with just over the hour gone.
The next score was the vital one of the day - the ball came down the right flank and Lee Keegan picked it up before finding Kevin McLoughlin in behind the cover, the Knockmore man was able to drop the ball and regain it before rounding the keeper and finishing to the net to put Mayo firmly on the road to victory.
Mayo were now six clear and it was all about taking advantage of tiring Meath side and racking up the scores as best they could - the did manage to add on 1-2 more before the end with Mayo’s second goal coming after Cillian O’Connor missed his second penalty in seven days - but he did drive home the rebound.
Mayo now head on to Castlebar with at least something to play for on the final day against Donegal.
Mayo: David Clarke; Chris Barrett, Brendan Harrison, Stephen Coen; Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle (0-01 ), Lee Keegan (0-01 ); Aidan O'Shea, Seamus O'Shea; Fionn McDonagh (0-02 ), Kevin McLoughlin (1-01 ), Jason Doherty (0-02 ); Cillian O'Connor (1-05, 0-04f ), Darren Coen (0-01 ), Fergal Boland (0-02 ).
Subs: Andy Moran (0-01 ) for D Coen (h/t ), James Carr (0-01 ) for Boland (48 ), Eoin O'Donoghue for S Coen (56 ), James McCormack for S O'Shea (63 ), Michael Plunkett for Keegan (74 ), Ciaran Treacy for McLoughlin (75 ).
Meath: Andrew Colgan; Seamus Lavin (0-02 ), Shane Gallagher, Conor McGill; Donal Keogan, Padraic Harnan, Gavin McCoy; Bryan Menton (0-01 ), Shane McEntee; James McEntee (0-01 ), Bryan McMahon, Ethan Devine (0-01 ); Cillian O'Sullivan (0-01 ), Michael Newman (0-02, 0-01f ), James Conlon (0-01 ).
Subs: Shane Walsh (0-05, 0-05f ) for Newman (35+2 ), Barry Dardis for McCoy (50 ), Sean Tobin for Devine (53 ), Thomas McGovern for Lavin (65 ), Thomas O'Reilly for McMahon (66 ), Marcus Brennan for Colgan (75, black card ).
Ref: C Brannigan (Down )