A 71st minute penalty from Barry Dardis gave Meath a famous last gasp victory over Kildare in a pulsating Division 2 contest in Navan.

Conditions were horrendous for the game and Kildare looked primed for victory when a Ben McCormack goal gave them a 1-07 to 0-05 lead at the break but Meath came roaring back.

McCormack went off injured and it proved crucial to the end result as Kildare only managed one second half point with Meath brilliantly snatching the result.

In a real championship-like atmosphere, the victory leaves Meath in a fantastic position to secure promotion as they sit pretty at the top of the league table with two games left.

Meath immediately tried to make use of home advantage at their backs and they kicked the first score in the opening minute with danger man Michael Newman finding space to curl a kick between the posts.

The next ten minutes was all about the visitors though as they kicked 1-03 without reply in a barnstorming period of dominance.

Paddy Brophy initially brought the teams level when he intelligently ran behind the Meath defence and took a quick line ball from Jimmy Hyland before scoring.

Hyland and Neil Flynn then added to the score before the net was rattled in the sixth minute when a simple but effective move started with a Mark Donnellan kickout being marked by Kevin Feely in midfield.

The Athy man found Ben McCormack and the attacker floated inside a couple of challenges before powering a shot past Andrew Colgan in the Meath goal.

Meath calmed things down with points from Ben Brennan at a difficult angle and an swerved shot from centre forward Ben Brennan that left just three points between the sides.

At this stage the cold weather took a turn for the even worse as sleet began to fall on the pitch but Kildare had the aid of it at their backs in the first half and points from McCormack and Keith Cribbin helped Cian O’Neill’s men maintain a five point advantage approaching the halfway mark of the half.

The Royals battled back with a Ben Brennan free but they were proving to be wasteful in front of goal and Kildare were taking control with Feely beginning to dominate the midfield area.

Kildare did suffer a blow in the 23rd minute when Mick O’Grady was black carded for a trip on Meath midfielder Shane McEntee and Newman followed up with a free but overall the Lilywhites dealt with the sin bin period expertly with both Tommy Moolick and Neil Flynn kicking great points from distance.

Paddy Brophy then had a goal chance just before the break but he was denied by Colgan as Kildare raced into the dressing rooms with a five-point lead.

Brennan brought his point tally to three at the beginning of the second half with a free as Meath began to get their gander up.

The crowd were beginning to get behind the home team and if it weren’t for a couple of great interceptions by Cian O’Donoghue and Kevin Feely, the deficit could have been reduced even further.

Brennan was then on target with a nice effort from play but it was quickly cancelled out by a badly needed Kildare score from Neil Flynn.

From there on it was constant Meath pressure towards the Kildare goal and they looked primed to get back within a point when Cillian O’Sullivan broke the line and passed across to corner back Ronan Ryan but with the goal at his mercy his palmed effort was brilliantly stopped by Mark Donnellan.

Donnellan went down with injury during the miraculous save though and had to be replaced by Aaron O’Neill and despite the miss Meath just kept on coming.

Points from Cillian O’Sullivan and Barry Dardis reduced the gap to just two points as they took up permanent residence in the Kildare half of the field.

Kildare had players going down right, left and centre and their immense defensive effort eventually took its toll when in the 71st minute Keith Cribbin committed a foul in the square and a penalty was awarded for which Barry Dardis brilliantly slotted into the top corner.

Kildare tried to work a last gasp point in response but ultimately the packed Meath defence held out to a rapturous reception from the crowd as they got one over their rivals on a 1-09 to 1-08 scoreline.

Meath: Andrew Colgan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Ronan Ryan, Gavin McCoy, Donal Keogan, Shane Gallagher, Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee, Cillian O’Sullivan (0-01), Ben Brennan (0-04, 0-02fs), Darragh Campion (0-01), Bryan McMahon, Michael Newman (0-02, 0-02fs), Thomas O’Reilly.

Subs: Graham Reilly for McMahon h-t, Niall Kane for McCoy h-t, Barry Dardis (1-01) for Newman 49 mins, Padraig Harnan for Campion 59 mins, Mickey Burke for Brennan 62 mins.

Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Mark Dempsey, Mick O’Grady, David Hyland, Cian O’Donoghue, Eoin Doyle, Peter Kelly, Kevin Feely, Tommy Moolick (0-01), Paddy Brophy (0-01), Fergal Conway, Keith Cribbin (0-01), Neil Flynn (0-03, 0-01f), Ben McCormack (1-01), Jimmy Hyland (0-01).

Subs: Adam Tyrrell for McCormack 23 mins, Paul Cribbin for Brophy 49 mins, James Murray for Doyle 54 mins, Kevin O’Callaghan for Conway 56 mins, Aaron O’Neill for Donnellan 56 mins,

Referee: Derek O’Mahony (Tipperary)