Kerry were forced to dig deep to overcome Westmeath 2-10 to 1-12 in an All-Ireland Senior Football Championship qualifier in Mullingar.

The introduction of Darran O'Sullivan at half-time made all the difference as Kerry came back from being 1-09 to 1-03 behind after 38 minutes. O'Sullivan got Kerry's second goal and they pushed on from there.

Kerry trailed by 0-08 to 1-03 at the interval despite a goal from a penalty by Bryan Sheehan. David Glennon slotted home Westmeath's goal from a penalty before O'Sullivan swung the game for Kerry.

The Kingdom did not score from play for half an hour despite wind advantage at Cusack Park, and it was Sheehan’s penalty after 12 minutes that kept them in the game.

But they trailed by 0-08 to 1-03 at the interval as Westmeath deservedly hit the front with the likes of Ronan Foley, John Heslin, Paul Sherry and Kieran Martin hitting good points.

But Kerry never panicked and their response to the Westmeath goal was superb.

Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper took a quick free to put O’Sullivan through and he crashed the ball to the roof of the net after 42 minutes.

James O’Donoghue and Paul Galvin quickly added points before Heslin free put Westmeath two ahead with 21 minutes left.

Kerry levelled with efforts from Sheehan and O’Donoghue before Cooper put them in front for the first time since the opening minute when he pointed a free with 14 minutes left.

However, Westmeath hit back and Heslin drew the Lakesmen five minutes from time to set up a dramatic finish.

But Kerry finished strongly with Sheehan pointing from the left and Galvin gave them a two-point cushion going into the closing stages.

Heslin pulled back a late free but Westmeath ran out of time as Kerry, who were far from impressive, got out of jail.