14-man Louth hit the last five scores of a tempestuous All-Ireland SFC qualifier clash with Monaghan tonight, but the Wee men were left cursing a poor opening at Breffni Park.

Monaghan boss Seamus McEnaney, who banished Tyholland duo Ray Ronaghan and Gary McQuiad from the panel for disciplinary reasons earlier this week, is still on course for a last 16 berth, but only just. 

His side were left hanging on as, although Louth lost midfielder Nicky McDonnell to a straight red card offence, wing forward Darren Clarke's masterful haul of ten points, all bar one from placed balls, saw the Farney men sweating at the finish. 

The on-song Clarke and Shane Lennon struck over the game's first two points to buoy Louth followers amongst a 13,000 attendance at the Cavan venue, yet Monaghan were soon in the groove thanks to a 1-5 whammy without reply. 

Sligo referee Martin Duffy booked 14 players throughout the seventy minutes, but Monaghan played enough of the football in the first half to progress.

Hugh McElroy saw his 12th-minute fisted shot bulge goalkeeper Shane Duffy's net, after a neat exchange down the right flank from Tommy Freeman and Fergal Duffy, and points from Paul Finlay (0-4), Dick Clerkin (0-2), Tommy Freeman and McElroy had the Farney men 1-8 to 0-5 in front at the break.

Clarke had sandwiched in three frees to kept Louth in touch.

Nine players, six wearing the red of Louth, had earned yellow cards before half-time and ten minutes after the restart, McDonnell received his marching orders - earning a straight red card for an apparent kick at an opponent. 

Despite the numerical disadvantage, Val Andrews' side dug deep and almost robbed Monaghan's place in the fourth round draw with a late flurry of points. 

A Clarke brace narrowed the gap to six points with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining. Then a searing break from the back, which involved Alan Page and Ronan Carroll, saw JP Rooney in for a goal chance but Duffy was equal to the Louth man's effort. 

Another burst of scoring from Clarke - a '45 and two more frees - and a sole Paddy Matthews' point pushed Andrews' men even closer, but Monaghan were not to be denied.

Monaghan: S Duffy; D McArdle, J Coyle, C Flanagan; D Freeman, V Corey, J Conlon; F Duffy, E Lennon; J McElroy, P Finlay (0-5 (0-5f)), D Clerkin (0-2); T Freeman (0-2), H McElroy (1-3 (0-3f)), S Gollogly.
Subs: N Corrigan for Duffy (52 mins), D McKernan for Gollogly (66), S McManus for J McElroy (69).

Louth: S McCoy; A Page, B Reilly, J Carr; C Sheridan, A Hoey, S Gerard; J Kermath, P Keenan; D Clarke (0-10 (0-7f, 2 '45)), C Grimes (0-1 (0-1f)), P Matthews (0-1); N McDonnell (0-1), S Lennon (0-1), JP Rooney.
Subs: R Carroll for Sheridan (16 mins), M Stanfield for Kermath (30), Ollie McDonnell for Lennon (58), D Devanney for Grimes (64).

Referee: Martin Duffy Sligo.