It was the tale of two 'keepers as a string of saves from Rory Burns helped Down secure survival in Division 2 while Niall Corbet’s fumble all but sealed Laois’ drop to the third tier.
Played in Newry’s Páirc Esler, a goal from Barry O’Hagan and Caolan Mooney’s fisted effort, which Corbet touched into his own net, sent Down on their way to survival.
The second goal came in the 41st minute but Laois had the perfect opportunity to respond only 60 seconds later. However, Donie Kingston blazed his penalty kick over the bar and from there Down smelled blood.
Paddy Tally’s men used their pace as Laois couldn’t help but foul the runners and with Barry O’Hagan on form, Down punished them. Liam Kerr and Cory Quinn popped up with huge points too as the Mourne men stretched their lead.
Donie Kingston did goal in the 72nd minute but that was mere consolation for Laois as Down had done enough to secure Division 2 status for next season.
Laois were ahead at by a point at the break and they would have been further in front had it not been for two point-blank saves from Burns.
Down dominated the opening stages and looked comfortable with their 0-04 to 0-01 lead but Evan O'Connell’s stunning goal on 13 minutes swung the game in Laois’ favour and sparked their survival fight.
Laois made a few changes from the team that lost heavily to Kildare last week. Gary Walsh, who scored 1-05 against the Lilywhites, lost out with Colm Murphy starting in his place at corner-forward. Sean Byrne was moved from starting on the bench last week to making the first 15.
Tally also made changes to the team that narrowly beat Westmeath with Gerard McGovern returning from his suspension with Ryan McEvoy missing out. Up front, Liam Middletown was the surprise inclusion ahead of young Conor McCrickard.
Two points in as many opening minutes from Mooney and Gerard Collins gave Down an early lead and when Kerr and Barry O’Hagan (free) tagged on points Down looked to be cruising.
Donie Kingston converted a free before Evans let fly with his low pile-driver to bring Laois into the contest with a bang. Kieran Lillis started to take control around the middle and he grabbed two first-half points for Laois as Colm Begley and goalkeeper Corbet added to the O’Moore cause.
Down hit back with O’Hagan brothers Barry and Darren on target and the sides were level on two occasions, but Lillis’s second point was the difference between the teams at the break.
The Ulster outfit held their nerve in the second half to secure the win.
Barry O’Hagan kicked some beautiful frees after the break while the impressive Quinn added to his tally.
McGovern, who only returned from suspension for this match, did pick up a second yellow card midway through the second period, but Down showed good spirit to comfortably see the game out.
Down: Rory Burns; Gerard Collins (0-01), Gerard McGovern, Patrick Murdock; Pierce Laverty (0-01), Darren O’Hagan (0-01), Peter Fegan; Jonny Flynn, Caolan Mooney (0-02); Liam Middleton, Barry O’Hagan (1-09, 0-09fs), Liam Kerr (0-01); Ceilum Doherty, Cory Quinn (0-02), Daniel Guinness.
Subs: Ryan McEvoy for Middleton (34), Stephen McConville (0-01) for Doherty (57), Kevin McKernan for Fegan (60), James Guinness for Quinn (68), Conor McCrickard (0-01, 0-01f) for Kerr (68), John McGeough for B O’Hagan (70+2), Ruairi McCrickard for Flynn (70+2)
Laois: Niall Corbet (1-03, 1-00 own goal, 0-03 '45s’); Robert Pigott, Mark Timmons, Gareth Dillon; Seamus Lacey, Colm Begley (0-01), Patrick O’Sullivan; Kieran Lillis (0-02), John O’Loughlin; Sean Byrne, Paul Kingston, Eoin Lowry (0-01); Evan O’Carroll (1-00), Donal Kingston (1-03, 0-02fs, 0-01pen), Colm Murphy (0-01).
Subs: Martin Scully for S Byrne (53), Mark Barry for P Kingston (53), Brian Byrne for Lowry (60), Brian Daly for Lillis (60), Gary Walsh (0-01) for Lacey (65), Brendan Carroll for O’Carroll (70).
Ref: Jerome Henry (Mayo).