It was a glorious return to Division One hurling for Antrim as they struck late with points from Neil McManus and Ciaran Clarke to score a surprise, yet fully deserved victory over Clare at Corrigan Park this afternoon.
The visitors did make the better start and led by six midway through the opening half, but the Saffrons grew into this game with a Ciaran Clarke goal igniting their challenge and pushed on in the second period to find the answers to claim the win.
With a stiff wind at their backs, Clare made the brighter start with David Reidy and Tony Kelly landing early scores.
The hosts gradually settled with Conal Cunning opening their account, but after an exchange of scores, the Banner pushed on and hit six of the next seven scores to move 0-13 to 0-3 ahead on 13 minutes.
The home side had been competing well, but just weren't clicking in attack until that point, but it would change as they began to find their rhythm, halving the deficit with points from Clarke, Neil McManus and Cunning.
The visitors replied with Shane O'Donnell and Diarmuid Ryan splitting the posts in quick succession, but the momentum was beginning to turn and Antrim were within two with another three points on the spin.
Kelly replied for Clare, but the sides were level on 29 minutes as a great ball into Clarke saw the Ballycastle man get clear and whilst his shot was half-saved by Eibhear Quilligan, the ball spun into the net to leave it 0-12 to 1-9.
Clare responded with points from Ryan and Kelly, with the sides trading scores late in the half to leave it Clare 0-16 to Antrim's 1-11 at the break.
The hosts wasted no time in drawing level early in the second period with Clarke tapping over a free and then a 65 after Cunning's shot at goal was deflected out.
Cunning was then denied a goal with a fine block as it became clear it was Antrim who had grabbed the momentum despite Ballyea ace Kelly edging Clare back in front from a free.
Eoghan Campbell tied the game and then the Saffrons took the lead for the first time with Keelan Molloy thumping over from out on the right.
The second period was very much nip-and-tuck with the sides going score-for-score, but it was always Antrim who were edging ahead in the exchanges as they were winning the breaks with hooks, blocks and some big challenges forcing turnovers.
Clarke was knocking over the frees with Kelly doing likewise, but when Diarmuid Ryan - moved into the forwards for the second half - pointed on the turn to level the game for the eighth time on 69 minutes, there was a sense this game may end up with honours ever.
However, Antrim just had that little bit extra and it was Neil McManus who hit the score of the day in stoppage time as he sold a beautiful dummy just outside his own 45 to jink onto his right and land a monster score to restore the advantage.
Clare battled for the equaliser, but were snuffed out and from a breakaway, Antrim won a free when Dan McCloskey was fouled and Clarke popped over the award to seal a fully deserved victory for the Ulster men.
Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Stephen Rooney, Gerard Walsh, Damon McMullan; Eoghan Campbell, Paddy Burke, Joe Maskey; Keelan Molloy, Neil McManus; Niall McKenna, James McNaughton, Michael Bradley; Conal Cunning, Ciaran Clarke, Conor McCann. Subs: `Eoin O'Neill for James McNaughton (47), Domhnall Nugent for Conor McCann (56), Conor Johnston for Michael Bradley (63), Dan McCloskey for Conal Cunning (70)
Antrim scorers: Ciaran Clarke 1-11 (0-9 frees, 0-1 65), Keelan Molloy 0-3, Neil McManus 0-3 (0-2 frees), Conal Cunning 0-2, Conor McCann 0-1, Eoghan Campbell 0-1
Clare: Eibhear Quilligan; Paddy Donnellan, Conor Cleary , Paul Flanagan; Diarmuid Ryan, John Conlon, Aidan McCarthy; Cian Galvin, Tony Kelly; Cathal Malone, David Reidy, Colin Guilfoyle; Ryan Taylor, Aaron Shanagher, Shane O Donnell. Subs: Liam Corry for Paddy Donnellan (HT), Rory Hayes for Aaron Shanagher (HT), David Fitzgerald for Cian Galvin (49), Shane Golden for Colin Guilfoyle (50), Jack Browne for Paul Flanagan (69)
Clare scorers: Tony Kelly 0-11 (0-7 frees, 0-1 65), David Reidy 0-3, Shane O'Donnell 0-2, Diarmuid Ryan 0-2, David Reidy 0-1, Colin Guilfoyle 0-1, Ryan Taylor 0-1, Aidan McCarthy 0-1
Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway)