Armagh secured their Division Two status and put Fermanagh’s ambitions of returning to Division One on ice.

Substitute Ethan Rafferty’s 64th minute goal put the victory firmly in Armagh’s grasp in a game that was more of cat and mouse than rip-roaring football.

Played in St Oliver Plunket Park Crossmaglen, Fermanagh were the happier of the two teams at the break despite trailing by a point as it was Armagh who had the wind at the backs in the opening 35.

As expected, scores were at a premium and the pick of them came in the second minute when Aidan Forker launched a tight-angled high effort between the posts and Armagh then doubled their lead when Jarly Og Burns fisted over.

Rian O’Neill’s converted point put the Orchard three in front before Fermanagh got their ball rolling and it came from a sweet Ryan Lyons' point after Ryan Jones and Sean Quigley linked up.

Grugan’s converted free kept the Erne men at arms-length but a brace of points within a minute from Aidan Breen and then Ryan Jones put the minimum between the teams with 20 minutes played.

Armagh’s Gregory McCabe was sin-binned before Declan McCusker steered over a fine long-range point to level the scores. But Fermanagh, despite controlling much of the second quarter, failed to capitalise on their possession advantage.

Che Cullen joined McCabe in the bin before Niall Grimley converted from a tricky angle to edge Armagh back in front. The Orchard failed to take advantage of further chances to increase their lead as Fermanagh were content going in at the break only a point behind (Armagh 0-05 Fermanagh 0-04).

The Orchard side were in control for much of the second half, where they ‘out-Fermanaghed’ Fermanagh, with probing and measured play.

Charlie Vernon, Jamie Clarke (free) and substitute Mark Shields put Armagh four points ahead with 50 minutes played. Fermanagh were camped in their own half as Armagh pushed numbers up. Still scores were hard to come by until Rafferty made a powerful gallop down the goal-line before lashing his shot low and into the net at the near-post.

With ten minutes still to go, Fermanagh opted to go for goals and they pumped ball after ball into the edge of the square, but Armagh defended diligently with Brendan Donaghy immense. 

Declan McCusker scored the away side's first point in 43 minutes and Conall Jones added another but their chances were harmed when full back Cullen was sent off late on, receiving a yellow card to go with his earlier black. 

Reeling from late sucker punches against Kildare and Clare, Armagh were determined to hold on to their lead this time and Grimley’s second converted free ensured Armagh had done enough to secure victory and their place in Division Two next year.

Fermanagh are chasing a return to Division One for the first time since 2007, when they face Meath next week, while Armagh take on Cork.

Armagh: Blaine Hughes, Ryan Kennedy, Aaron McKay, Paul Hughes, Brendan Donaghy, Greg McCabe, Aidan Forker (0-01), Charlie Vernon (0-01), Niall Grimley (0-02, 0-02f), Jemar Hall, Rory Grugan (0-01), Jarly Og Burns (0-01), Pearse Casey, Rian O’Neill (0-01, 0-01f), Jamie Clarke (0-01, 0-01f).

Subs used: Stefan Campbell for Casey (28’), Mark Shields (0-1) for McCabe (ht’), Ethan Rafferty (1-0) for O’Neill (61’), Joe McElroy for Forker (63’), Ciaran Higgins for Hall (70+2).

Fermanagh: Tomas Treacy, Lee Cullen, Che Cullen, Kane Connor, Ultan Kelm, James McMahon, Ciaran Corrigan, Eoin Donnelly, Ryan Jones (0-01), Kevin McDonnell, Declan McCusker (0-02), Aidan Breen (0-01), Ryan Lyons (0-01), Conall Jones (0-01), Sean Quigley.

Subs used: Daniel Teague for McDonnell (37’), Jonny Cassidy for Lyons (53’), Tomas Clarke for Donnelly (53’), Paul McCusker for Breen (61’).

Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).