Fourteen-man Westmeath came from six p oints behind to score a stunning Leinster SHC win over Antrim.
The home trailed by six points early in the second half, but they dug deep, performed with passion, and an eight points tally from man of the match Niall O’Brien guided them to victory and a quarter-final clash with Galway.
The Lake county looked dead and buried when defender Conor Jordan was sent off after 30 minutes, but they turned the game around with a display of immense courage.
Adam Price and Jordan double-teamed ace Antrim attacker Liam Watson, but that didn’t prevent the Loughgiel star from angling over a superb score to add to a Neil McManus free, drilled between the posts from 70 metres.
With Shane McNaughton in a withdrawn role, Waston and Darren Hamill were able to exploit the extra space inside, and it was Watson who stroked over another to make it 0-3 to 0-0 after 10 minutes.
A brief melee could well have seen referee Anthony Stapleton reach for his red card, but he merely issued yellows to Watson and Jordan.
Brendan Murtagh and Francis Boyle were causing the Antrim defence problems with their strong running, and it was Murtagh who won the free that Niall O’Brien converted for Westmeath’s opening score in the 17th minute.
McManus soon restored the Saffrons’ three-point cushion with a monster free, and along with Neal McAuley, marshalled a stubborn defensive effort which repeatedly frustrated the home side.
McNaughton added further to Westmeath woes with two carbon copy points from wide on the left, and when Jordan picked up a second yellow card on the half-hour, Brian Hanley’s side appeared to be on a hiding to nothing.
Paul Greville’s tigerish defending set up a point for O’Brien, but at the break it was the Ulster men who led by 0-8 to 0-3.
The home side, with the wind in their backs, started the second half brightly, with O’Brien and Boyle hitting the target, and when Aonghus Clarke swept over a stylish point, followed by O’Brien’s fifth, the deficit was down to two.
Antrim were ruffled as their hosts piled forward, with Alan McGrath at the centre of their telling surges from deep, but points from McManus and Barney McAuley kept their noses in front.
O’Brien powered over a free from 70 metres to narrow the gap to a single point midway through the second half, and it was Murtagh who brought the sides level.
Antrim went back in front through substitute Conor McCann, but only briefly, as the home side, with Price and Paul Fennell performing heroics, shut up shop at the back.
And the Leinster men shot the final three points of the game, going in front for the first time through O’Brien, and sealing with the win with Murtagh’s late strike.
Westmeath scorers: N O’Brien 0-8 (6f), B Murtagh (1f), F Boyle 0-2 each, A Clarke, J Shaw 0-1 each.
Antrim scorers: L Watson 0-4, S McNaughton (1f), N McManus (2f) 0-3 each, B McAuley, C McCann 0-1 each.
Westmeath: S McGovern, C Jordan, A Price, P Fennell, P Dowdall, A McGrath, P Greville, A Clarke, J Clarke, B Murtagh, F Boyle, R Greville, N O’Brien, J Shaw, E Price.
Subs: D Fennell for Boyle (62), P Gilsenan for R Greville (72)
Antrim: DD Quinn, J Kerr, C Carson, A Graffin, M Gettens, N McManus, N McAuley, B McAuley, P Shiels, M Herron, B McFall, E McCloskey, D Hamill, L Watson, S McNaughton.
Subs: K Stewart for Hamill (46), PJ O’Connell for Herron (56), C McCann for McFall (61), S McCrory for Kerr (67)
Referee: A Stapleton (Laois).