Kilkenny staged an impressive comeback at Nowlan Park, claiming a one-point win to edge out Wexford and book a Leinster final date with Galway.
A poor first-half performance from Kilkenny saw the Cats rack up 10 wides before the break, at one stage going 18 minutes without a score, while the retuning Richie Hogan was benched at half-time.
However, a TJ Reid-led fightback helped Brian Cody’s side turn the tables, having trailed by seven at half-time.
An energetic Wexford – playing with a first-half breeze – found the net through Paul Morris, but the Model County lost shape and form on the resumption, managing only seven points in the second half.
While Wexford defeated the Cats in last year’s Leinster SHC semi-final, this essentially acted another provincial semi-final clash as the winners were certain to advance to a Leinster final meeting with the All-Ireland champions on 1 July.
However, Davy Fitzgerald’s side could not manage to see of the Cats, despite leading by 1-11 to 0-7 at half-time.
Kilkenny have beaten Wexford by 0-1 in the LSHC. Watch the full-time highlights here on GAANOW. pic.twitter.com/wjD6r4tr3M— The GAA (@officialgaa) June 9, 2018
Kilkenny had named the same 15 that started in their loss to the All-Ireland champions two weeks ago, but Cody made wholesale changes to his forward line as Hogan, Colin Fennelly and Bill Sheehan were introduced.
Hogan, making his first start of the campaign, struggled from the opening whistle, however, as the Kilkenny attack malfunctioned in the first half.
They racked up seven wides between Reid’s 16th-minute mis-hit free and a converted dead ball from the Ballyhale man on the half hour.
Playing with the breeze, Wexford were lively from the get-go as Rory O’Connor, Morris, Diarmuid O’Keeffe and Lee Chin impressed in the opening half.
The Models were already up by 0-10 to 0-5 before Morris fired past Eoin Murphy in the 28th minute, the Ferns/St Aidan’s man raising a green flag from a David Dunne assist after good work from Chin.
Cody altered two of his pre-match changes at half-time as Hogan and Fennelly were both taken off, with Richie Leahy having a major impact in the second half following his introduction.
While Wexford hit the first two points after the resumption – the reliable Paudie Foley and Chin on target – Kilkenny gradually wrestled control of the game.
Reid found his range from frees, while Wexford now struggled to find the target with Chin’s influence diminishing.
Leahy put the Cats level on 58 minutes, while corner-back Enda Morrissey gave them the lead on the hour mark (0-18 to 1-14).
Foley kept Wexford in the fight, but further scores from Leahy, Conor Fogarty and substitute John Donnelly sealed the win.
Kilkenny: E Murphy 0-1f; E Morrissey 0-1, P Walsh 0-1, P Deegan; C O’Shea, C Buckley, P Murphy; C Fogarty 0-2, J Maher 0-1; C Fennelly, TJ Reid 0-11 (9f, 1 ’65), R Hogan; B Sheehan, W Walsh, L Scanlon.
Subs: J Holden 0-1 for C O’Shea ht, M Keoghan for C Fennelly ht, R Leahy 0-2 for R Hogan ht, L Blanchfield for B Sheehan 47, J Donnelly 0-2 for L Scanlon 65.
Wexford: M Fanning; D Reck, L Ryan, C Firman; P Foley 0-5 (4f), M O’Hanlon, D O’Keeffe 0-1; K Foley 0-1, S Murphy; L Chin 0-3, A Nolan, D Dunne; P Morris 1-1 R O’Connor 0-5 (2f), C McDonald 0-2.
Subs: H Keohoe for K Foley 54, J O’Connor for D Dunne 55, S Donohoe for D O’Keeffee 63, S Tomkins for Morris 70.
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).