Derry held on for a narrow 3-8 to 2-9 qualifier win over Down in a cracker in the Marshes.

The Oak Leaf men led by eight points at one stage, but needed a superb Barry Gillis save in the dying moments to keep their season alive.

A game packed with incident and drama went right down to the wire after looking like a Derry rout at one stage.

Down refused to give in after conceding three goals, hitting back with two of their own to set up a gripping finish.

In the end, Derry held on to book their place in the third round of the series, but only just.

Enda Muldoon struck for the first goal in the seventh minute, finding space in behind full-back Adrian Scullion, who allowed Eoin Bradley's delivery to hop over his head.

Once in the clear, the rest was easy for the big corner forward, who slid a low shot past Mickey McVeigh for a three points lead.

Down struggled to get past a well organised Oak Leaf defence, but did create  a goal chance, Damien Rafferty sending Ambrose Rodgers clear, but he was denied by a fine Barry Gillis save.

Paddy Bradley and Muldoon were causing increasing problems for a nervy Mourne rearguard and after Bradley had fielded cleanly for a wonderful score, he slotted home his side's second goal in the 23rd minute.

Once again his fetching ability created the opening, and once he had beaten Martin Cole to Mark Lynch's dropping ball, he turned and drilled the ball past  a helpless McVeigh.

Benny Coulter converted a free and Ambrose Rodgers landed a '45', but Down were in deep trouble at the break, trailing by 2-4 to 0-5.

Things got worse for Paddy O'Rourke's side when Eoin Bradley darted through from halfway for a magical solo goal, but when Benny Coulter hit back with a Down goal three minutes later, they still had a glimmer of hope.

Paddy Bradley continued to hit the target, however, firing over points off both feet. Nevertheless, Down struck gold again with substitute Ronan Sexton blasting home a goal to narrow the gap to a point.

But teenager Mark Lynch dug deep to swing the momentum back in Derry's favour, swinging over a superb point, and it was goalkeeper Gillis who emerged as the hero with a wonderful injury-time save from John Clarke.

Down: M McVeigh; M Cole, A Scullion, A Rice; P Murphy (0-1), A O'Prey, D Rafferty; A Molloy, C McCrickard; C Laverty, A Rodgers (0-2, 1 '45'), D Hughes(0-2); R Murtagh (0-1), B Coulter (1-2, 2f), S Ward.

Subs: B Grant for Rice, R Sexton (1-0) for Laverty, M Walsh for McCrickard, J Clarke (0-1) for Ward.

Derry: B Gillis; K McGuckin, K McCloy, M Kelly; F McEldowney, SM Lockhart, P McFlynn; F Doherty, Patsy Bradley; P Murphy, E Bradley (1-0), J McBride (0-1); M Lynch (0-2), Paddy Bradley (1-4), E Muldoon (1-1).

Subs: Fergal McEldowney for Murphy, G Donaghy for Doherty, G O'Kane for Kelly.

Referee: S McCormack (Meath)