Westmeath got their Leinster Championship campaign off to a winning start but had to endure an anxious final ten minutes in an exciting midlands derby against Longford at Pearse Park before advancing to a quarter-final meeting with Offaly.
Kevin Mulligan had home supporters cheering with a fine solo effort for the opening score of the game. However, Longford then had to wait for almost 20 minutes for their next score as Westmeath grabbed a goal and three points without reply.
Midfielder Martin Flanagan earned and then converted a free-kick to open the Lake County's account, while on seven minutes the awarding of a controversial penalty kick when Denis Glennon was fouled allowed the visitors to take the lead.
Goalkeeper Damien Sheridan was unlucky not to keep out Alan Mangan's spot kick but the momentum carried the ball over the line. Further pointed frees from Flanagan and Dessie Dolan stretched the lead but two free-kicks from Frank McGee and a nice sideline kick over the bar from Brian Kavanagh reduced the deficit as the half progressed.
Flanagan and Jamesie Martin swapped points but Westmeath went in for the break leading by double scores when Glennon cut in from the left to send the ball to the net past a helpless home goalkeeper after 31 minutes.
Longford had a goal chance in stoppage time but Gary Connaughton spread himself well to block a shot from Brian Kavanagh at his near post.
Fergal Wilson stretched the Westmeath advantage to six points with a pointed free on the resumption of play, while Paul Barden then opened Longford's second half account with a point.
Dolan and Martin swapped scores but Westmeath still held a comfortable lead as the second half advanced.
Another Wilson free and two fine points from Glennon and Mangan looked to have secured an easy passage for Tomás Ó Flaharta's men but Longford staged a brave comeback that almost earned them a replay.
Corner-forward Martin started the home rejuvenation with a pointed free after the hour mark and a minute later Paul Barden had the Pearse Park crowd in raptures with a left footed finish to the net.
Further points from Brian Kavanagh and Martin reduced the Westmeath lead to just two points as the contest entered stoppage time.
However, Fergal Wilson eased the winners' nerves somewhat with the last score of the game with a point from a free kick as Longford's second half fight back fell just short.
LONGFORD: Sheridan, N Farrell, O'Connor (Brady 65), Masterson, Reilly, Williams, Kelly (Casey 65), Keenan, Dowd, K Mulligan (Foy 57), P Barden, Berry (S Mulligan 49), Martin, Kavanagh, McGee (D Barden half-time).
Scorers: P Barden 1-01, Martin 0-03 (2 frees), Kavanagh 0-02, McGee 0-02 frees, K Mulligan 0-01, Masterson 0-01.
WESTMEATH: Connaughton, Boyle, Gavin, Keane, Ennis, Heavin, Healy, O'Donoghue, Flanagan, Wilson, Smyth, Harte (Duffy 54), Mangan, Glennon, Dolan.
Scorers: Mangan 1-01, Glennon 1-01, Wilson 0-03 frees, Flanagan 0-03 (2 frees), Dolan 0-02 frees.