Monaghan survived a scare at Clones to squeeze through to the Ulster SFC semi-finals, 1-12 to 1-09.

Wing back Karl O’Connell netted a Monaghan goal after just 30 seconds, but they lost skipper Paul Finlay to injury, and three Paddy Cunningham points helped Antrim cut the deficit to two, 1-04 to 0-05 at the interval.

James Loughrey bagged a goal as the Saffrons went three points clear, but the Farney men fought back with late points from Tommy Freeman, Dessie Mone, Conor McManus and Pete Dooney.

In front of a disappointing crowd of 8,804, wing-back Karl O’Connell gave Monaghan a dream start with a goal after just 30 seconds.

He galloped in from the left wing and fired in a shot which was parried by goalkeeper Chris Kerr, but the Tyholland man marked his championship debut by netting from the rebound.

Antrim had hit a rash of wides by the time Paddy Cunningham opened their account from a 20-metre free after ten minutes.

Monaghan captain Paul Finlay converted a free, but his game was over by the 19th minute when he was forced out of the action by a shoulder injury.

Owen Lennon, a surprise inclusion in the Farney starting 15, thumped over a point which as cancelled out by Michael McCann, and when Michael Magill fired over a superb score, just a point separated the sides.

But Finlay’s replacement, Kieran Hughes, made his mark with a couple of well-taken scores, easing his side into a 1-04 to 0-05 interval lead, Paddy Cunningham cutting the deficit with a stoppage time point.

Dick Clerkin’s long-range point was cancelled out by an equally spectacular effort from his opposite number, Aodhan Gallagher.

But Antrim hit the front in the 45th minute when Magill offloaded for James Loughrey to collect at pace and blast an angled shot to the top corner of the net.

Target man Magill was the central character as the Saffrons opened out a three-point lead with points from Michael McCann and Mark McAleese

But Monaghan, with Tommy Freeman making a surprise appearance from the bench, hit back with points from Conor McManus and Freeman, before Clerkin punched over the equaliser on 56 minutes

It was Freeman who shot Monaghan back in front with just over ten minutes to play following the latest in a series of turnovers that had blighted Antrim’s challenge

Cunningham levelled again as the game built towards a thrilling climax, with Monaghan’s patient and measured build-up finishing with centre back Dessie Mone powering over a point.

And they finished with a swagger, late points from Pete Dooney and McManus giving them a three-point winning margin.

Monaghan scorers: K O’Connell 1-0, K Hughes (1f), C McManus (2f), D Clerkin, T Freeman 0-2 each, D Mone, O Lennon, P Finlay (f), P Dooney 0-1 each.

Antrim scorers: J Loughrey 1-0, P Cunningham 0-4 (2f), M McCann 0-2, A Gallagher, M Magill, M McAleese 0-1 each.

Monaghan: M Keogh, D Morgan, V Corey, C Walshe, K O’Connell, D Mone, K Duffy, O Lennon, D Clerkin, M McKenna, S Gollogly, J Turley, C McGuinness, P Finlay, C McManus.

Subs: K Hughes for Finlay, T Freeman for McGuinness, P Dooney for McKenna, D Wylie for Duffy.

Antrim: C Kerr, A Healy, R Johnston, K O’Boyle, T Scullion, J Crozier, J Loughrey, M McCann, A Gallagher, C Murray, M Sweeney, M McAleese, P Cunningham, M Magill, T McCann.

Subs: O Gallagher for Scullion, C Kelly for Murray, B Neeson for Magill.

Referee: M Deegan (Laois).