John Heslin landed three late points as Westmeath’s strong finish earned them a tight 2-09 to 0-16 win over Louth in Mullingar this afternoon.
It was a gutsy effort from the midlanders who had defender Doron Harte sent-off in the 20th minute, in a match where referee Gary McCormack showed 18 yellow cards and one red card.
Goals from Adrian Reid and Colm Judge had given Louth a 2-04 to 0-07 half-time lead.
But Louth slipped up and lost a five-point advantage with Heslin and Callum McCormack (0-05 each) leading the hosts’ scoring charge.
Louth made a strong start to new manager Aidan O'Rourke's first league game and aided by a stiff wind, they led by 1-01 to 0-00 after just eight minutes.
Jim McEneaney got the visitors off the mark after 18 seconds with a well-taken point, while Adrian Reid followed up with a goal seven minutes later.
The Mattock Rangers defender charged upfield and picked up possession 30 metres from goal before cutting in from the tightest of angles to finish the ball past Westmeath goalkeeper Gary Connaughton.
Callum McCormack kicked the first of his five points a minute later, but Westmeath were under huge pressure in the opening quarter with Louth guilty of four early wides.
Scores from Heslin and Kieran Martin cut the gap to a point after 16 minutes, but Westmeath were dealt two major blows shortly afterwards.
Firslty Colm Judge pounced for Louth's second goal after a Shane Lennon free came off the upright, and then wing back Doron Harte was shown the only red card of the game after a heavy tackle on McEneaney.
Louth moved six points clear by the 27th minute, but Westmeath responded before the break thanks to the efforts of Martin, Heslin and McCormack.
Into the second period Louth moved five points clear following scores from McEnaney and Adrian Reid. The introduction of Dessie Dolan in the 42nd minute raised the hopes of the home side as Westmeath added three unanswered points.
Denis Glennon and McCormack (0-02) were on target for the hosts to ensure a 2-06 to 0-10 score-line in the 46th minutre.
Ger Egan's move to midfield alongside Heslin proved an effective switch for Westmeath as Pat Flanagan's charges took control in that sector.
Louth bounced back with their first point in eight minutes after Lennon laid the ball off to Andy McDonnell for his only score.
McCormack bagged his fifth point with an excellent score from 35 metres out, although a goal option was on the cards with Dolan crying out for possession inside.
At 2-07 to 0-11 ahead, Louth's attempts to add to their tally over the following 11 minutes proved futile although they were not without their chances.
Lennon missed a close-range free, while Kevin Rogers spurned a 53rd minute goal-scoring opportunity having been gifted possession by Westmeath corner back Mark McCallion.
Westmeath worked hard, with Dessie Dolan levelling the tie for the first time with 12 minutes remaining. Louth hit back in the 62nd minute as a fisted point from Lennon pushed the visitors 2-08 to 0-13 ahead.
However, Heslin was on fire from placed balls late on with three unanswered points between the 65th and 71st minutes. At the back Paul Sharry was also in industrious form late on, doing well to sniff out Louth's goal threat.
Lennon added his fourth point for the visitors two minutes into injury-time, but it was too late as Westmeath claimed their first league win over Louth since 2006.
Westmeath: J Heslin (0-05f), C McCormack 0-05 each, D Glennon 0-03, K Martin 0-02 (0-02f), D Dolan 0-01.
Louth: A Reid 1-01, S Lennon 0-04, C Judge 1-00, J McEneaney 0-02 (0-01f), A McDonnell, D Reid 0-01 each.
LOUTH: N Gallagher; P Rath, D Finnegan, J O'Brien; G Hoey, D Crilly, A Reid; R Carroll, B Donnelly; A McDonnell, J McEneaney, C Rafferty; C Judge, S Lennon, K Rogers.
Subs used: D Reid for Judge (24 mins), P Keenan for Carroll, R Finnegan for Rafferty, G O'Hare for Rath (all half-time), P Smith for Rogers (59).
WESTMEATH: G Connaughton; M McCallon, K Gavin, K Mcguire; M Curley, P Sharry, D Harte; P Bannon, J Heslin; G Egan, C McCormack, K Martin; R Foley, J Dolan, D Glennon.
Subs used: Dessie Dolan for Bannon (42 mins), D Cooroon for Foley, Damian Dolan for Curley (both 61).
Referee: Gary McCormack (Dublin).
League Sunday, RTÉ Two, 7pm: Highlights and analysis from the day's National Football League matches, including Mayo v Kerry in Division One, plus Galway v Derry and Wexford v Longford in Division Two.