Antrim secured promotion to Allianz Football League Division 3 for the first time since the 2017 season with a fully-deserved nine-point win over Waterford in Fraher Field.

In scorching heat, the Saffrons squandered a host of goal chances throughout the contest before finally finding the net through Odhran Eastwood on 64 minutes to end the challenge of the Déise.

Antrim bossed the early exchanges with Creggan Kickhams duo Ruairi McCann (mark) and Conor Small opening the scoring before a brace of scores from Odhran Eastwood and another mark from McCann moved the Saffrons five clear.

A free from Eastwood left his side 0-06 to no score ahead at the first water break and the St Enda's attacker tagged on another score on the restart with an excellent point from an acute angle.

Waterford finally got off the mark on 27 minutes when midfielder Jason Curry slotted over a '45 and full-forward Dylan Guiry had a sight of goal when he blasted over moments later.

The hosts rattled off another point from the boot of wing-back Dermot Ryan before both sides passed up goal chances.

Guiry crashed an effort off the post after forcing his way past Rickey Johnston while, at the other end, Conor Murray fired wide of either post in quick succession approaching half-time.

A free from Curry cut the gap back to four momentarily before Antrim closed the half with a fine point from play from Ryan Murray to take a 0-09 to 0-05 lead into the half-time interval.

It took the Saffrons just 40 seconds of the second half to extend the lead via Eastwood and Enda McGinley’s men ought to have put the game beyond doubt, but were denied by two excellent saves by Waterford goalkeeper Paudie Hunt.

Conor Murray was played through on goal by his Lámh Dheag clubmate Marc Jordan, but his low effort lacked conviction and Hunt was equal to the shot.

However, Hunt was at his brilliant best moments later when he produced a remarkable fingertip save to turn away a shot from Jordan which seemed destined for the back of the net.

Waterford managed to reduce the deficit to four once again before the second water break with Curry landing a point from play, but a fisted effort from Antrim midfielder Conor Stewart had Antrim back in command.

Inside the final 10 minutes, a booming fist-pass forward from his midfield colleague Niall McKeever released substitute Adam Loughran as Antrim cut through on goal once more. The ball was transferred to Eastwood who showed great composure to round Hunt and bury the ball into the net to move his side into a comfortable 1-14 to 0-08 lead.

Waterford finished with a flurry of later scores from substitutes Jason Gleeson (two) and Mark Cummins, but Antrim were full-value for their nine-point success and, after three consecutive near-misses, secured promotion from the basement division.

WATERFORD: P Hunt; S Boyce, J Elsted, D Ó Cathasaigh; M Curry, B Looby, D Ryan (0-01); T Prendergast, J Curry (0-04, 0-02fs, 0-01 ’45); M Kiely (0-01), C Murray, D Hallinan; S Curry, D Guiry (0-01), D Corcoran (0-01).

Subs: J Gleeson (0-02) for Corcoran (46), A Jones for Hallinan (45), M Cummins (0-01) for Boyce (50),

S O’Meara for Guiry (61), D Fitzgerald for Kiley (67), C Maguire for J Curry (67), D Meehan for Ryan (67).

ANTRIM: L Mulholland; E McCabe, R Johnston, P Healy; D McAleese, J Laverty; M Jordan; N McKeever, C Stewart (0-01); Ryan Murray (0-03, 0-1f), C Murray, P McBride (0-01); O Eastwood (1-05, 0-02fs), R McCann (0-04, 0-02m), C Small (0-01).

Subs: E Walsh for McAleese (22), K Small for R Murray (43), T McCann for C Small (46), A Loughran for C Murray (63), J McAuley for Jordan (63), J Crozier for Stewart (71), P Cunningham for Eastwood (71).

REFEREE: David Murnane (Cork)