Tomas O'Connor and Johnny Doyle both found the net as Kildare downed All-Ireland champions Donegal 2-14 to 1-13 on the opening night of the Allianz Football League at Croke Park.
Despite Donegal taking an early 0-03 to 0-00 lead, Kildare settled into proceedings in spectacular style. O'Connor's 18th-minute goal and three points from Johnny Doyle helped them to a 1-07 to 0-05 interval lead.
Points for the Lilywhites from Doyle (0-02) and debutant Niall Kelly increased their advantage to seven, but Donegal scores from Michael Murphy (0-04), Paddy McBrearty, Dermot Molloy and Mark McHugh brought the deficit down to the bare minimum.
Kildare rode this storm thanks to a fortunate goal from Doyle with six minutes to go, and even though Molloy replied with a goal for Donegal, points from Kelly, Eoghan O'Flaherty and Paddy Brophy were enough to get Kieran McGeeney's men over the line.
The Ulster outfit had made an excellent start to the game with Murphy making an immediate impact in attack. The Glenswilly man was on target with a brace of frees in the fifth and ninth minutes, before providing the spade work for a McBrearty point from play just a minute later.
At this point it looked like Donegal were set to pick up where they left off last season, but McGeeney's charges soon came charging into the contest. Points from the boot of Doyle and a free by Mikey Conway soon made it a one-point game.
Indeed, they found themselves moving into the lead by the 18th minute. Powerful full-forward O'Connor reacted sharply to palm to the net after half-back Conway had hit the post with a placed ball free-kick.
This gave the recently crowned O'Byrne Cup champions the incentive to push on for further scores.
Splendid points from distance by the evergreen Doyle (0-02), Brian Flanagan, newcomer Kelly and Padraig O'Neill, as Kildare made it 1-07 to 0-04 as half-time beckoned.
Murphy had smashed over the bar when a goal looked on after 27 minutes and his fourth point - third from a free - in injury-time time did cut the gap slightly by the break.
With star corner forward Colm McFadden departing the scene through injury after just ten minutes of play, Murphy was ploughing a lone furrow at times in the Donegal attack. Kildare maintained their momentum from the opening period to stretch their advantage to seven with scores from Doyle (0-02) and Kelly again.
Murphy drove Donegal on by registering three superb points from play between the 37th and 48th minutes to keep his team in the reckoning.
As the second half wore on, the Tir Chonaill men sensed that they could yet secure the two league points on offer. McBrearty, Murphy and substitutes Mark McHugh and Dermot Molloy all split the posts and suddenly there was just one point separating the sides with ten minutes to go.
Kildare looked to have weathered this storm when a Conway free was followed by Doyle's fortuitous goal after 64 minutes. His speculative effort from the right hand side slipped through the fingers of goalkeeper Paul Durcan and into the back of the net.
Donegal bounced straight back just a minute later when substitute Molloy flicked to the net from close range. But this was as close as Jim McGuinness' side came to salvaging something from the league opener.
Late points from man of the match Kelly and substitutes Eoghan O'Flaherty and Paddy Brophy gave them a winning return to top flight football after a four-year absence.
KILDARE: Shane Connolly; Ollie Lyons, Peter Kelly, Hugh McGrillen; Emmet Bolton, Michael Foley, Mikey Conway (0-02, 0-02f); Gary White, Padraig O'Neill (0-01); Brian Flanagan (0-01), Daniel Flynn, Niall Kelly (0-03); Seanie Johnston, Tomas O'Connor (1-00), Johnny Doyle (1-05, 0-01f, 0-01 '45').
Subs used: Paddy Brophy (0-01) for Johnston (56 mins), Eoin Doyle for Bolton (60), Eoghan O'Flaherty (0-01) for White (63).
DONEGAL: Paul Durcan; Marty Boyle, Neil McGee, Eamon McGee; Frank McGlynn, Declan Walsh, Anthony Thompson; Rory Kavanagh, Martin McElhinney; Ross Wherity, Leo McLoone, Ryan Bradley; Colm McFadden, Michael Murphy (0-09, 0-05f), Paddy McBrearty (0-02, 0-01f).
Subs used: Dermot Molloy (1-01) for McFadden (10 mins), Mark McHugh (0-01) for Boyle (32), Daniel McLaughlin for McGlynn (half-time).
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)