Down produced a great display to beat semi-finalists Kildare 3-13 to 1-12 in Newry but they were still relegated from Division 1.
Two goals from Eoin McCartan and another from Kevin McKernan ensured Down finished the campaign on a winning note, with Padraig O'Neill scoring a late consolation goal for Kildare.
The hosts led 1-06 to 0-06 at half-time thanks to McCartan's 17th-minute goal, and his second goal two minutes after the restart gave Down a commanding lead.
The Lilywhites, who were already guaranteed their semi-final spot before today's throw-in, rarely got out of second gear as Down made most of the running.
Kieran McGeeney brought on a number of their Leinster Under-21 title-winning side in the second half, while Seanie Johnston was taken off after hitting four wides.
Just like they have done for most of this league run, Down played with a lot of heart and on this occasion also got the result.
They looked like a team determined not to surrender top flight status without a fight and despite trailing by a single point on three separate occasions in the first quarter, McCartan's goal in the 17th minute ignited their afternoon.
Mark Poland's surging run released Benny Coulter. He could have shot for goal but unselfishly fisted the ball inside to McCartan, who palmed the ball into an empty net to put Down in front for the first time at 1-02 to 0-03.
That goal was still the difference between the teams at half-time, with Down leading by 1-06 to 0-06.
Kildare picked off nice scores through Johnny Doyle and Eoghan O'Flaherty but Down found a unique way of resolving the defensive problems which have dogged their season to date, playing at one stage with all 15 men behind behind the ball.
The tactic worked, as they stripped Kildare of possession and ended up winning a free at the other end which Donal O'Hare converted.
His accuracy from frees and Kevin McKernan's surging runs through from midfield set the tone for a sterling performance.
Kildare were undone by slack play for all the goals, letting Down cut through them on several occasions.
Two minutes after the restart McKernan's low shot was saved by the legs of Kildare goaleeper Shane Connolly, but the rebound fell to McCartan who toe-poked the loose ball into the net to put Down ahead by seven points.
Having Doyle fully recovered after a shoulder injury was a big boost to Kildare and he registered 0-5 over the 70 minutes, including two from play in the first half.
Paul Cribbin was a late inclusion in the starting line-up for Kildare and he caught the eye with some brilliant high fielding from kickouts as well as hitting 0-02 from play.
Despite hitting 1-02 without reply late on, with Padraig O'Neill's 65th-minute goal just one of a number of goal chances they had in the last 10 minutes, Down held out for a confidence-boosting win ahead of their Ulster Championship clash with Derry on June 2.
Kildare will not be too concerned about the defeat, with a league semi-final against Tyrone to look forward to at Croke Park next Sunday.
DOWN: B McVeigh; D McCartan, B McArdle, O Costello; D Rooney, P Turley, R Boyle (0-01); K King, K McKernan (1-03); M Poland, P Devlin (0-01, 0-01f), K Quinn; D O'Hare (0-04, 0-04f), E McCartan (2-00), B Coulter (0-01).
Subs used: A McArdle for Quinn (30 mins), R Mallon (0-01) for Coulter (half-time), N Madine (0-02) for E McCartan (58), D Turley for P Turley (64), R Kelly for O'Hare (67).
KILDARE: S Connolly; O Lyons, M Foley, H McGrillen; P Cribbin (0-02), P Kelly (0-01), E Doyle; D Flynn, P O'Neill (1-00); W Groome, E Callaghan (0-01), E O'Flaherty (0-02); J Doyle (0-05, 0-03f), S Johnston, A Smith (0-01).
Subs used: S Hurley for Flynn (42 mins), F Dowling for Johnston (47), N Kelly for Callaghan (53), C McNally for Groome (58), T O'Connor for Smith (64).
Referee: David Gough (Meath)