Liam Cahill's Waterford got their Allianx Hurling League campaign off to a perfect start as they edged past a Cork side which were left rueing a tally of 17 wides come John Keenan’s full-time whistle.
Cork flew out of the blocks with two goals in the opening three minutes via Shane Kingston and Conor Lehane but Waterford soon regained their composure due in no small part to the scoring exploits of Stephen and Kieran Bennett.
By the 12th minute, the Deisemen had reduced their arrears to a single point after Patrick Curran found the net from close range following fine support play from Neil Montgomery and the impressive Calum Lyons.
Points from Stephen Bennett and Jack Fagan sent Waterford ahead by the 14th minute and while Patrick Horgan may have been kept scoreless from play, his ability to create space for other and set piece accuracy kept Cork well in the hunt. Horgan sent Shane Kingston through on goal after 27 minutes only for the Douglas attacker to steer his scooped shot wide.
Stoppage time efforts from Stephen Bennett and Patrick Curran sent Waterford two points clear come the change of ends (1-13 to 2-8). Waterford, inspired by Stephen Bennett, struck two points within 75 seconds of the restart as their nervous start became a distant memory.
But Cork never looked like lying down and thanks to some impressive shooting from Damien Cahalane and Mark Coleman, ensured that the game remained in the balance heading into the final quarter.
Before a 4,235-stong crowd, Waterford found an extra gear, outscoring Cork by three points between the 56th and 67th minutes.
Patrick Horgan and Stephen Bennett traded frees in the 68th and 69th minutes to leave Waterford five points clear, but Shane Kingston’s second goal, as the game entered injury-time, threw Cork back into contention.
Damien Cahalane’s third point of the day left just a point between the sides in the 72nd minute but Kingston’s last gasp effort flew to the right of Stephen O’Keeffe’s goal to leave the Rebels facing into a westward return home with nothing to show for their efforts. Waterford deserved their win – but only just.
Waterford: S O’Keeffe; C Gleeson, C Prunty, S McNulty; C Lyons, D Fives, I Daly (0-01); J Prendergast (0-01), J Dillon; N Montgomery, J Fagan (0-02; 0-01 sideline), K Bennett (0-5; 0-01 sideline); D Hutchinson, S Bennett (0-11; 0-07f, 0-01 sideline), P Curran (1-03).
Subs used: K Power for C Lyons (Blood, 22-25), S Fives for C Gleeson (30), M Kearney (0-01) for J Dillon (50), P Hogan for D Hutchinson (54), D Lyons for N Montgomery (59) and T Barron for J Fagan (62).
Cork: A Nash; N O’Leary, R Downey, S O’Donoghue; C O’Leary, T O’Mahony, D Cahalane (0-03); B Cooper, M Coleman (0-02); S Harnedy (0-02), D Fitzgibbon (0-02), A Walsh; C Lehane (1-00), S Kingston (2-02), P Horgan (0-06f).
Subs used: L Meade for A Walsh (50), S O’Leary Hayes for N O’Leary (54), S Twomey for C Lehane (60) and R O’Flynn for S Harnedy (68).
Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)