Super sub Kevin McLoughlin came to Mayo's rescue yet again with a 69th minute goal in Navan that helped the visitors to snatch two vital Division 1 points.
McLoughlin, who was introduced at half-time, was Mayo’s only scorer in the second half, hitting 1-02 as the Westerners beat Meath in the league for the first time since 2001.
This was Mayo’s first victory of this campaign, although they did draw with Donegal on the opening night, while Meath have now lost all three of their opening games.
A huge crowd turned out at Pairc Tailteann despite the stormy conditions, and they were treated to a dramatic and exciting finish with the outcome hanging in the balance right until the final whistle.
Mayo were ahead at half-time by six points after playing with the strong wind, but Meath hit back with two third quarter goals from James McEntee and Ronan Jones in the space of five minutes to go ahead by 2-02 to 0-07.
It took Mayo almost half an hour to register a second half score as Kevin McLoughlin's free in the 63rd minute levelled the game for the first time, and he then traded points with Meath’s Cillian O’Sullivan to leave the sides deadlocked.
The game’s watershed moment arrived in the 69th minute after the influential McLoughlin dispossessed Meath’s Robin Clarke close to goal, played a quick one-two with Ryan O’Donoghue, before crashing the ball to the Royals’ net.
That goal left Mayo three points up heading into additional time, and while the homeside did pull back two scores, including one free, from Brian McMahon in the closing stages they were unable to carve out an equaliser.
In hindsight, Andy McEntee’s men will rue their ten second half wides when playing with the gale behind them.
Mayo were more economical when they had the wind advantage, and they led at the interval by 0-07 to 0-01 despite shooting five wides.
It took Meath 25 minutes to open their account through the strong running Bryan Menton, but by that stage Mayo had five points on the board through long-range scores from Tommy Conroy, James Carr (2, one free), Paddy Durcan and Fergal Boland.
Meath spurned a number of scoring chances due to the swirling breeze early on and they were also unlucky not to hit the net when Brian Conlon was denied by a last-ditch challenge by Diarmuid O’Connor.
The Royals were unable to add to their tally before the break either while Ryan O’Donoghue and Fergal Boland picked off points from distance at the other end to send Mayo in with a six-point cushion at half-time.
But Meath came roaring back into contention in the second half with James McEntee’s goal in the 49th minute breathing new life into their comeback.
A free from Bryan McMahon and a second Meath goal from Ronan Jones left Mayo reeling, as the reigning league champions faced the real prospect of a second successive defeat.
However, they never panicked and Kevin McLoughlin popped up to save the day once more.
When the league resumes after its 'mini break’ in two weeks’ time, Mayo will travel to Inniskeen to take on Monaghan while Meath are away to Kerry in Killarney.
Mayo: R Hennelly; L Keegan, J McCormack, B Harrison; E O’Donoghue, M Plunkett, P Durcan (0-01); A O’Shea, D O’Connor; F Boland (0-02), S Coen, J Durcan; T Conroy (0-1), J Carr (0-02, 1f), R O’Donoghue (0-01).
Subs used: K McLoughlin (1-01, 1f) for Carr; C Loftus for Conroy; E McLaughlin for McCormack; C Treacy for J Durcan; B Walsh for Boland.
Meath: M Brennan; R Clarke, C McGill, D Toner; J McEntee (1-00), B Conlon, D Keogan; B Menton (0-01), R Jones (1-00); R Ryan, B McMahon (0-03, 2fs), E Devine; C O’Sullivan (0-01m), T O’Reilly, S Walsh.
Subs used: E Wallace for Devine; J Wallace for Walsh.
Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone)