Donegal eventually eased their way into the second round of the senior football qualifier series with a hard-earned 0-16 to 0-12 victory over Wicklow at Aughrim.

Both sides were finding it difficult to get a real flow to their game in the intense heat, but it was Wicklow who enjoyed the brightest start as they led 0-5 to 0-2 after 18 minutes.

They had opened their account through a Leighton Glynn pointed free, and with full-forward Wayne O'Gorman picking off two excellent points they had started impressively.

However, instead of building on this, it was Donegal who gradually clawed their way into the game.

Points from Brian Roper, Christy Toye and Brendan Devenney had the sides level 0-5 each after 25 minutes. A point from

Brendan Ó hAnnaidh restored the Garden County's lead but it was Donegal who finished the half strongly with points from Devenney and Stephen McDermott to lead 0-7 to 0-6 at the interval.

Donegal opened the second period impressively with points from Colm McFadden, Brendan Devenney and Damian Diver to race four points clear.

Similarly to the first half Wicklow refused to buckle, bouncing back with points from Jonathan Daniels (2), Wayne O'Gorman and Garry Duffy, with Donegal managing a Neil Gallagher point in between.

Only a single point separated the sides, 0-11 to 0-10, with 20 minutes remaining.

Donegal hit a golden spell which practically settled the game with Adrian Sweeney and Colm McFadden pointing to put the Ulster side clear, but once again Wicklow battled back through Thomas Harney and Jonathan Daniels points to leave the visitors leading 0-14 to 0-12 with eight minutes left on the clock.

It was Donegal's experience which won out in the end as McFadden tagged on two further points, one a free, to secure his side’s passage.

Donegal Manager Brian McEniff was happy with the victory.

"It was difficult given the journey and the heat but the players responded positively. We hit patches where we should have put the game away but we allowed them back into the game several times in both periods.

"It's nice to get back to winning ways. But huge improvement is called for with the next round just six days away."

A disconsolate Wicklow manager Hugh Kenny had to accept another narrow defeat after his side had gone agonisingly close to upsetting Kildare in the Leinster SFC.

"We had lots of chances but really it was their experience that separated the sides in the end. Now we've a long summer with only the league to look forward to in the New Year. But it's essential for us to win promotion to Division One to progress our game."

Wicklow: R Hollingsworth; C Hyland, B Daly, T Burke; K Manning, W Callaghan, B Ó hAnnaidh (0-1); D Dillon, J Stafford; D Smullen (0-1) L Glynn (0-1, f), T Harney (0-2); P Earls, W O'Gorman (0-4), A Ellis.

Subs: G Duffy (0-1) for Dillon (25 mins), J Daniels (0-2, 1f) for Earls (40 mins), D O'Sullivan for Ellis (45 mins), C Davis for Ó hAnnaidh (60 mins), G Doran for Smullen (63 mins).

Donegal: M Boyle; E McGee, R Sweeney, S McDermott; D Diver (0-1), S Carr, K Lacy; B Monaghan, N Gallagher (0-1); C Toye (0-1), M Hegarty, B Roper (0-1); C McFadden (0-6, 4f), A Sweeney (0-2), B Devenney (0-3, 1f).

Subs: R Kavanagh for Roper (53 mins), B Boyle for Kavanagh (56 mins), R Bradley (0-1) for Toye (62 mins), C Dunne for McFadden (68 mins).

Referee: G Kinneavey (Galway).