Lethal forwards Geraldine McLaughlin and Yvonne McMonagle were on fire as Donegal shocked Cork to put themselves firmly in the hunt for a top four finish in Division 1 of the Lidl Ladies National Football League.
McLaughlin and McMonagle tormented League and All-Ireland champions Cork, collecting 3-10 between them in comprehensive 3-16 to 0-12 win in Mallow.
McMonagle scored 2-04 and McLaughlin bagged 1-06 as Donegal put themselves in a strong position, second in the table ahead of next weekend’s rearranged fixture with Mayo.
That outstanding game will have big implications on the race for semi-final places as victory for Mayo would see four teams finish with 12 points each from the group stages, ensuring that the three remaining last-four slots are decided by scoring difference.
Cork are already through on 15 points, with Donegal, Dublin and Galway now locked together on 12.
Donegal boast the best scoring difference at this point (+18) while Mayo would need to win well against them to squeeze into the semi-finals.
In Mallow, McLaughlin’s fifth-minute penalty goal handed Donegal the early initiative and two minutes later, McMonagle was on target with a second goal for the visitors.
Cork did work their way back into contention but at half-time, and despite losing Grainne Houston to the sin-bin, Donegal had a platform to work with, leading by 2-5 to 0-8.
After the break, McMonagle struck again for Donegal’s third goal and they would hold out to collect a famous victory over the Rebelettes.
Cork were boosted by the returns of 11-time All-Ireland winner Bríd Stack and Annie Walsh for their seasonal bows in the second half – but they fell to a second defeat of the season.
Elsewhere, Monaghan kept up their hopes of staying in the top flight for a 26th successive year when they dug deep to earn the 2-15 to 2-12 victory they needed in Clones against Armagh.
The returning Cathriona McConnell (1-05) and the excellent Ellen McCarron (0-06) led the scoring charge but Monaghan will now face the same opponents in a relegation shoot-out, as the Ulster rivals are locked together on six points and occupy the bottom two places in the top flight.
Hosts Monaghan led at the break 2-05 to 0-06, two fortunate goals giving them the advantage with Ciara McAnespie’s long range effort dropping into the net on 21 minutes before McConnell’s mishit free also found the target on the stroke of half time.
At the other end, Armagh missed a number of good goal chance while Aimee Mackin hit four points.
With McCarron hitting some super points on the resumption, Monaghan continued to hold firm but a goal from Niamh Marley with nine minutes remaining give Armagh hope as they reduced the deficit back to four points.
The lead was extended back to six and while Mackin’s point and a goal from Caroline O’Hanlon ensured a nervy finish, Monaghan held out for the win.
At Tuam Stadium in Galway, captain Sinead Aherne helped herself to 2-06, including a penalty goal and three frees, as Dublin won by 2-10 to 2-06.
Galway had a 2-05 contribution from Roisin Leonard, including a penalty goal and five frees, but Dublin took the chance to draw level in the Division 1 standings with the hosts.
Aherne netted twice in the first half, including the penalty in stoppage time, as Dublin led by 2-02 to 1-01 at the break.
Dublin continued their dominance in the second half and while Leonard made no mistake with a penalty seven minutes from time, the Sky Blues held out.
In Swinford, last year’s runners-up Mayo kept their semi-final hopes alive as Sarah Rowe scored 3-1 in a narrow 3-9 to 2-11 victory over Kerry.
At half-time, Kerry led by 1-7 to 0-7, Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh fisting home an early goal for the Kingdom.
But Rowe’s second half hat-trick proved vital for Mayo, who know what they have to do against Donegal next weekend.
In Division 2, there were victories for Clare, Cavan, Tyrone and Westmeath (Cavan, Westmeath and Clare are confirmed semi-finalists), with Tipperary making it seven wins from seven in Division 3, hammering relegated Limerick by 4-16 to 0-6.
Tipp will be joined by Wexford, Roscommon and Offaly in the third-tier semi-finals, with Longford, Wicklow, Fermanagh and Carlow to contest the Division 4 semi-finals.
Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1
Mayo 3-9 Kerry 2-11
Galway 2-6 Dublin 2-10
Cork 0-12 Donegal 3-16
Monaghan 2-15 Armagh 2-12
Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 2
Sligo 2-9 Clare 3-14
Cavan 4-16 Laois 2-6
Waterford 1-8 Tyrone 1-16
Westmeath 3-13 Kildare 0-10
Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 3
Roscommon 0-11 Wexford 2-7
Offaly 4-16 Down 5-11
Limerick 0-6 Tipperary 4-16
Leitrim 3-8 Meath 0-13
Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 4
Wicklow 0-9 Longford 1-9
Derry 2-10 Carlow 4-8
Louth 5-8 Fermanagh 6-10
Kilkenny 1-10 Antrim 5-10