LAOIS 1-15 DONEGAL 1-11
MJ Tierney scored 1-10 for victors Laois as both the midlanders and Donegal secured promotion to Division 1 of the Allianz Football League.
These teams claimed the top two positions in Division 2 and will meet in the final in two weeks' time at Croke Park.
Free-taker Tierney had Laois leading by 0-09 to 0-03 at half-time in Portlaoise and although Dermot Molloy netted for Donegal, who had Michael Hegarty sent-off, the hosts prevailed by four points.
Laois and Donegal entered this game on the back of victories in the previous round, with Donegal almost guaranteed a league final berth and Division 1 football next year. But, for Justin McNulty's Laois outfit, this was a 'must win' fixture.
In the end, both sides got what they wanted from this O'Moore Park tussle which was high in intensity and kept the 5,000-plus crowd intrigued throughout.
Laois burst out of the blocks and signalled their intent early on. Former Aussie Rules player Colm Begley set the tone with a point inside 20 seconds of the throw-in.
Pauric Clancy then blazed a shot wide of the posts before Tierney landed the first of his first half points - seven scores from seven attempts - to give Laois a 0-02 to 0-00 lead in the fourth minute.
Molloy was guilty of a missed opportunity for the visitors, but Anthony Thompson broke forward to get Donegal off the mark in the sixth minute.
The Tir Chonaill men, who were protecting a six-match unbeaten record, gradually came more and more into the game. However, they were left to rue six wides by the 24th minute as Laois moved 0-06 to 0-02 ahead.
Man-of-the-match Tierney punished Donegal with three further pointed frees, while John O'Loughlin added a superb point from play in the 14th minute after Donegal coughed up possession.
Midfielder Martin McElhinney claimed Donegal's first point in 12 minutes to cut the gap to three points, but Laois finished the opening half in strong stead.
Tierney adding three more points inside the closing four minutes to put six between the sides at the turnaround. Donegal drew first blood in the second half with Colm McFadden scoring from play just 50 seconds after the restart.
Laois defender Peter O'Leary quickly cancelled that out, but Donegal were beginning to threaten more and a first score from Rory Kavanagh left the scoreline at 0-10 to 0-05 in the 42nd minute.
Just two minutes later, Laois manufactured their goal. Tierney drilled a low shot straight to the net after some excellent support play from Ross Munnelly.
But the goal seemed to spur Donegal on, rather that kill off their hopes. They hit 1-03 without reply over the next six minutes, with Dermot Molloy netting a 48th minute goal to cut the deficit to two points.
Molloy, who had an earlier shot saved by Eoin Culliton, left the Laois goalkeeper with little chance when he found the net with a powerful shot, but all of this momentum came at a price.
Hegarty was sent to the line by referee Martin Higgins after picking up a second yellow card for lashing out at O'Leary.
Laois steadied themselves with a much-needed Mark Timmons point, before McElhinney and Tierney swapped scores. McFadden made it 1-12 to 1-10 with nine minutes left on the clock, but Laois had more in the tank.
The hosts claimed three of the final four points with Tierney the scorer of two of those. Notably, Darren Strong was the third Laois defender to get on the scoresheet.
The encounter proved to be a dress rehearsal for the sides' second meeting later this month. It will be the O'Moore men's first appearance in a league final since they lost the Division 1 decider to Tyrone back in 2003.