Antrim fended off a late Cavan charge to grab a huge win at Corrigan Park that eases their relegation fears, while leaving the visitors' promotion hopes on ice.
Cavan needed just a draw to seal back-to-back promotions but for long stages resembled a side who felt they simply had to show up until a crazy final 16 minutes when they burst into life and left Antrim hanging on.
For the home support, there were clear flashbacks of Antrim's defeat to Fermanagh at the same venue three weeks ago when they squandered a big lead to get caught at the last.
They would have had their hearts in their mouths again here, but this time the Saffrons held out to banish those ghosts and also the drubbing in Mullingar a fortnight back.
Andy McEntee would have sought a response from his players and he got it. They owned the ball in the opening exchanges and although the sides swapped early points, a perfect long ball from Eoghan McCabe into Aghagallon's Ruairi McCann on five minutes saw him claim possession and spin Padraig Faulkner to lash home.
Cavan appeared to spark into life with quick-fire points by Paddy Lynch and Cian Madden, but Antrim quickly regained control with points from Marc Jordan and Dominic McEnhill.
Cavan really ought to have pulled that goal deficit back on 21 minutes as Ryan O'Neill got free on the left and squared for the advancing Jack McKenna to palm home, but he couldn't get over the ball as he scooped it over with the goal gaping.
Latest #AllianzLeagues Div3 R6— Antrim GAA (@AontroimGAA) March 18, 2023
40mins 2nd Half
An Cabhán: 2-12(18)
Aontroim point Paddy McBride who came back on!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/wVUzK9T4OW
McKenna would be denied by the crossbar later in the half as he got to a half-blocked effort, but Antrim were playing the better football as they attacked with purpose and seemed to have the bit between their teeth as Paddy McBride and Odhran Eastwood kicked two apiece to leave Antrim 1-07 to 0-04 up at the half.
They pushed on further after the break, pushing the gap out to ten with Eastwood and McBride to the fore again, while Patrick McCormick had a sight of goal but his effort flew over Raymond Galligan's crossbar.
The visitors rang the changes and they began to have the desired effect with Connor Madden and Gearóid McKiernan finding their rage, but Antrim were seemingly managing the game well as they led by nine with ten minutes to play as McEnhill and Seamus McGarry kept the scoreboard ticking over.
Then came the Cavan charge, with three points in as many minutes giving their support hope. With five minutes of normal time remaining, they were right back in it as Cian Madden played a ball into Conor Madden whose finish was superb past Mick Byrne.
A Conor Smith point reduced the arrears to two, but Antrim seemingly had halted the great escape with a pair of Eastwood points from frees.
Just when the game appeared over, Cavan forced a turnover and with numbers, Paddy Lynch lashed home to the net leave the minimum in it.
There would be no repeat of the Fermanagh loss for Antrim this time, however, as they got upfield and McBride kicked his fifth of the day to seal their win and leave them in a great position to beat the drop.
Antrim: Mick Byrne; Eoghan McCabe, Declan Lynch, James McAuley; Patrick McCormick (0-01), Joseph Finnegan, Marc Jordan (0-01); Colm McLarnon; Jack Dowling; Patrick Finnegan, Ruairi McCann (Creggan) (0-01f), Paddy McBride (0-05); Dominic McEnhill (0-02), Ruairi McCann (Aghagallon) (1-00), Odhran Eastwood (0-06, 2f).
Subs: Peter Healy for Patrick Finnegan (51), Seamus McGarry (0-01) for McBride (54), Conor Stewart for Dowling (64), Barry McCormick for Joseph Finnegan (67), Paddy McBride for McEnhill (68).
Cavan: Raymond Galligan (0-02, 2 '45); Killian Brady, Padraig Faulkner, Conor Moynagh; Ciarán Brady, Cian Reilly, Tiernan Madden; Jack McKenna (0-01), Killian Clarke; Gerard Smith, Cian Madden (0-03), Jonathan McCabe; Brandon Boylan, Paddy Lynch (1-01), Ryan O'Neill.
Subs: Gearóid McKiernan (0-02, 2f) for Boylan (ht), James Smith for Killian Brady (HT), David Brady for McKenna (45), Conor Madden (1-02) for O'Neill (45), Conor Smith (0-01) for Smith (64).
Referee: Kieran Eannetta (Tyrone).