Laois and Westmeath played out a very entertaining draw in O'Moore Park this afternoon to set up the sides nicely for their rematch in the Joe McDonagh Cup final in Croke Park in two weeks time.
Eddie Brennan's Laois side looked like they were staring at defeat but Camross youngster Eoin Gaughan stepped up to nail two late frees to leave the game as a draw.
The draw was enough for Westmeath to claim second spot in the group and they will be back in Croke Park for the second year running on 30 June against Laois.
Laois played against the breeze in the first half but had the game's first score through Stephen Maher from the wing.
But Laois's inaccuracy in the first half was a feature which left them five points behind at the break.
Three goal chances came and went as Westmeath keeper Conor Lynch pulled off fine saves to thwart Neil Foyle and Ross King.
While on the one occasion he was beaten, full back Tommy Doyle got back to clear Stephen Bergin's clever shot off the line.
Westmeath got four points in a row after Maher's opener through Killian Doyle (2), Joey Boyle and Robbie Greville before two execellent Jack Kelly scores from wing back, either side of another Doyle free, left it 0-5 to 0-3 in Westmeath's favour at the midpoint of the half.
However, the game's opening goal arrived a minute later when Robbie Greville found space inside the Laois full back line and charged forward before finding the net.
Laois responded well to that set back in fairness as Stephen Maher and Enda Rowland converted from placed ball.
Centre back Matthew Whelan sent one over but late points from Killian Doyle, Allan Devine and Westmeath centre back Aonghus Clarke sent them in ahead 1-10 to 0-8 at half time.
Laois introduced Eoin Gaughan at half time and he made an instant impact, pointing seconds after corner forward Stephen Bergin had done the same.
Killian Doyle's fifth and sixth points put five between them again but Colm Stapleton then fired one over from in front of the stand to leave it 1-12 to 0-11 after 40 minutes.
Joey Boyle and Gaughan exchanged scores before a third Jack Kelly score from in front of the terrace after a lovely period of handpassing at the back left a goal between them.
Ross King then landed a brace and the sides were level after 50 minutes through Stephen Maher before Laois took the lead.
Wing back Jack Kelly fired the ball in towards the square where sub Aaron Bergin broke it down and Mark Dowling fired it to the back of the net.
But Westmeath would not go away and sub Darragh Clinton fired over two points either side of a Robbie Greville effort to level the game at 1-16 apiece with 15 minutes to go.
Laois went back ahead through Maher and Stephen Bergin but Westmeath drew level again on the 60th minute mark through Darragh Clinton and Killian Doyle.
Centre forward Doyle then gave Westmeath the lead with his eighth point before Clinton's fourth point in 12 minutes since his introduction put the gap out to two.
Ross King left one in it but another Doyle free put Westmeath 1-21 to 1-19 ahead with five minutes to play.
King once again cut the gap to the minimum as two minutes of injury time were signalled.
Laois got level five seconds into as Gaughan showed remarkable composure to slot over a free from the 65 but then Killian Doyle's tenth point regained the lead for Westmeath.
Laois had the chance to claim a draw with what we thought was the final puck of the game when Colm Stapleton was fouled but Gaughan couldn't repeat his earlier heroics and his effort from in front of the stand went wide.
But referee Patrick Murphy found another two minutes of injury time and Laois won another free where Gaughan made no mistake to send the ball over the bar to leave it a draw.
Laois scorers: Stephen Maher 0-7 (two frees, one 65), Ross King 0-4, Jack Kelly 0-3, Eoin Gaughan 0-3 (one free), Mark Dowling 1-0, Stephen Bergin 0-2, Colm Stapleton 0-1, Enda Rowland 0-1 (one free), Matthew Whelan 0-1
Westmeath scorers: Killian Doyle 0-10 (nine frees, one 65), Robbie Greville 1-2, Darragh Clinton 0-4, Joey Boyle 0-2, Gary Greville 0-1, Ciaran Doyle 0-1, Allan Devine 0-1, Aonghus Clarke 0-1
Laois: Enda Rowland; Eric Killeen, Joe Phelan; Jack Kelly, Matthew Whelan, Colm Stapleton; John Lennon, Conor Phelan; Ross King, Neil Foyle, Stephen Maher; Mark Dowling, Aaron Dunphy, Stephen Bergin. Subs: Eoin Gaughan for Lennon (ht), Aaron Bergin for Dunphy (49), Andrew Mortimer for Phelan (51), Lorcan Burke for Kelly (58), Ciaran Comerford for Foyle (66)
Westmeath: Conor Lynch; Darragh Egerton, Tommy Doyle, Gary Greville; Liam Varley, Aonghus Clarke, Paul Greville; Shane Clavin, John Gilligan; Ciaran Doyle, Killian Doyle, Joey Boyle, Robbie Greville, Derek McNicholas, Allan Devine. Subs: Shane McGovern for Clavin (ht), Conor Shaw for Egerton (44), Jack Galvin for C Doyle (50), Darragh Clinton for McNicholas (52), Shane Power for P Greville (62, inj)
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)