Meath advanced to their first minor football final since 2012 with a hard-worked five point victory over Sligo this afternoon.

A point from Christian Finlay inside the opening forty seconds gave Meath the perfect start and the perfect tonic to settle the early nerves.

Sligo responded in fine fashion with the lively Luke Marron kicking two scores to put Sligo ahead as they really settled into their game.

On ten minutes Meath had the first goal of the game courtesy of Christian Finlay. Paul Wilson was brilliant in the build up racing unchallenged from midfield before offloading to Finlay to finish with aplomb past Conor McMorrow.

The goal gave Meath real confidence in attack with points from Hughie Corcoran, Shaun Leonard and a sublime free from distance from goalkeeper Oisin McDermott giving Meath a four point lead at the water break.

The water break didn't halt Meath’s momentum one bit as they rattled off four fine points without reply from distance as they began to take real control of proceedings.

Oisín Ó Murchu tries to get away from Dylan McLoughlin and Conor Johnston

To their credit, despite being under huge pressure at the back and seven points adrift Sligo continued to dig in with Luke Marron causing all sorts of problem for Meath at the back.

A Brian Duffy penalty on twenty three minutes gave Sligo the shot in the arm they needed, narrowing the deficit to four as the first half drew to a close.

Meath’s efficiency in front of goal was telling as they tagged on the last three points of the half to leave seven between the sides at the break.

The Leinster champions' cause was dealt a blow early in the second half when Oisin O’Murchu was shown a straight red card and sent to the stands without any hesitation.

Both sides seemed to have been affected by the sending off with just a point each scored in the next fifteen minutes of play.

Meath had a glorious chance to put the game to bed with Andrew Moore denied a goal with a fantastic goal line clearance from Dillon Walsh for Sligo.

With five minutes remaining Jack McGovern got Sligo’s second goal to narrow Meath’s lead to just four points with four to play.

Meath weren’t to be reeled in though and Jack Mannion sealed their place in this year’s final with a goal in the closing stages to leave five between the sides on the whistle.

The Royals will face Tyrone in the decider as a curtain-raiser to next Saturday's senior semi-final between Tyrone and Kerry.

Meath: Oisín McDermott (0-01, 1f); Conor Ennis (0-01), Liam Kelly, Brian O’Halloran; Shaun Leonard (0-02), Tomas Corbett (0-01), Killian Smyth; Paul Wilson, Jack Kinlough; Andrew Moore, Sean Emmanuel, Conor McWeeney (0-01); Christian Finlay (1-03), Oisín Ó Murchu (0-02), Hughie Corcoran (0-03, 1f).

Subs: Tadgh Martin for Shaun Leonard (51), John Mannion (1-00) for Killian Smyth (57), James Foley for Hughie Corcoran (59)

Sligo: Conor McMorrow (0-01, 1f); Robert O’Kelly Lynch, Conor Johnston, Ronan O’Hehir; James Donlon, Dylan McLoughlin, Dillon Walsh; Conor Sheridan, Ross Doherty; Stephen Rogan, Ronan Niland, Mark McDaniel (0-01); Brian Duffy (1-01, 1f), Joshua Flynn, Luke Marren (0-06, 4f).

Subs: Tommy Ross for Stephen Rogan (46), Jack McGovern (1-00) for Ronan Niland (49), Kyle Mullen for Conor Sheridan (51), Stephen Donoghue for Joshua Flynn (55)