A late point by Dennis Glennon gave Westmeath the narrowest of wins over Wicklow in their Leinster Football Championship quarter-final clash in Tullamore.
Westmeath did it the hard way after losing John Gaffey and David Duffy to second half red cards, with Wicklow having Leighton Glynn dismissed.
Paul Earls' 71st-minute goal levelled the tie, only for Glennon's last-gasp point to swing it for his side.
Martin Flanagan and Tony Hannon led the scoring in a scrappy first half which Westmeath, who welcomed Dessie Dolan back as an impact sub, edged by 0-05 to 0-04.
In the end, Westmeath did enough to pull through and claim their second successive Leinster Championship win over Mick O'Dwyer's men. They needed extra-time to prevail at this stage last year, winning 0-16 to 1-10.
This result is a significant boost to the Lake County's flagging fortunes. They went through the recent National League losing seven games on the trot on the way to being relegated to Division 2. Brendan Hackett resigned from his managerial position and Pat Flanagan installed as interim manager at the end of April.
Hardly the ideal build-up for this Championship opener but, in warm and dry conditions, Flanagan's charges hit the ground running – moving into a 0-04 to 0-01 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Westmeath had Denis Glennon operating as a third midfielder alongside David Duffy and Paul Bannon, but Wicklow's James Stafford was cleaning up a lot of ball in that area and providing his side with the impetus.
Free-taker Hannon put O'Dwyer's side in front, yet Westmeath showed a clinical edge in their early attacks and Flanagan, team captain Michael Ennis and Paul Greville (0-02) all pointed.
In defence, the Lakesiders also looked sharp, with fit-again goalkeeper Gary Connaughton setting the tone with two excellent saves. He denied Paul Earls and then went full length to stop a crisply-struck Ciaran Hyland shot.
Stafford's aerial dominance helped Wicklow stay on the front foot and Darren Hayden soon picked off their only point from play in the first half. Hannon kicked the other three from placed balls, including a 48-metre effort, as Westmeath began to fall foul of referee Michael Collins.
Flanagan's second point of the afternoon was the difference between the sides at the break, and a four-point burst after the restart added to Westmeath's growing confidence. Man-of-the-match Conor Lynam took centre stage with three excellent points, the first inspiring this early purple patch for his team.
Greville, Paul Bannon and Doran Harte added scores to extend Westmeath's lead to five points with 14 minutes left on the clock, while the introduction of former All-Star Dessie Dolan, who recently rejoined the panel, also provided a boost.
Top scorer Hannon continued to impress from placed balls and despite losing skipper Leighton Glynn to a second yellow card, they upped their game in the closing stages.
Hyland and Nicky Mernagh both pointed to cut deficit to three and Earls found the net to leave Westmeath reeling, the goal put away on the rebound after Stafford’s initial attempt had been blocked and Connaughton had parried Furlong’s ground shot.
But there was no early birthday present for Wicklow boss O'Dwyer – he turns 74 on Wednesday – as Westmeath showed great resolve to pinch a match-winning goal.
Just when it looked like the dismissals of Gaffey and Duffy, after 60 and 62 minutes, would spoil all their good work, up popped Glennon to capitalise on a quick turnover of possession and point them into a 26 June showdown with Louth.
WESTMEATH: G Connaughton; F Boyle, D O’Donoghue, J Gaffey; M Ennis, K Martin, D Harte; D Duffy, P Bannon; J Smyth, C Lynam, A Gaughan, P Greville, M Flanagan, D Glennon.
Subs used: G Egan for Gaughan (32 mins), D Dolan for Smyth (44), T Warburton for Martin (52, inj).
Scorers: M Flanagan (0-01 ‘45’), C Lynam, P Greville 0-03 each, D Glennon 0-02, P Bannon, M Ennis, D Harte, D Dolan 0-01 each
WICKLOW: M Travers; C Hyland, D Ó hAnnaidh, S Kelly; A Byrne, B McGrath, D Hayden; J Stafford, JP Dalton; L Glynn, T Hannon, N Mernagh; P Dalton, S Furlong, P Earls.
Subs used: J Flynn for Travers (18 mins, inj), S Canavan for McGrath (63).
Scorers: T Hannon 0-05 (0-05f), P Earls 1-01, S Furling 0-02 (0-01f), C Hyland, D Hayden, N Mernagh 0-01 each
Referee: Michael Collins (Cork)