Another slow start cost Meath dearly as Roscommon underlined their Division 2 promotion prospects with a gutsy win in Navan.

Led by Conor Cox – who struck 0-07 – and the Smith brothers, Enda and Donie, the Connacht men hit Meath hard and early to open up a nine-point half-time lead and held on in the face of a late Meath rally.

Conor Heneghan struck the crucial Roscommon goal and finished with 1-01 while another bad day for the struggling Royals ended with straight red cards for manager Andy McEntee and nephew James McEntee after a late melee.

Anthony Cunningham's Roscommon played into the stiff wind in the second half but held on for the win that leaves them sitting pretty with a 100% record ahead of their round three hosting of Clare on 20 February.

Meath, who host Down next, are in real bother after back-to-back defeats to western opposition with Galway holding McEntee's men scoreless until the 45th minute at Pearse Stadium last Sunday.

James McEntee (left) is dismissed by Henry

They trailed by ten points after 44 minutes but fought back with an unanswered 0-07 to reduce the gap to three points in stoppage time.

They lost James McEntee after a shove on Ultan Harney, sparking a melee that ended with referee Jerome Henry also showing a straight red card to Meath manager Andy McEntee.

Meath badly needed a pick-me-up after the result in Galway but played into a stiff wind again, like they had in Salthill, and were once again overrun which ultimately cost them the game.

They kept pace with the Rossies for the first 20 minutes with Cunningham's men only leading by 1-05 to 1-03 at that stage.

Mathew Costello scored Meath's goal after eight minutes after being played in by Jordan Morris, who was recalled to the line-up after coming on as a substitute last weekend.

Morris had initially drawn a great save from Roscommon goalkeeper Colm Lavin but Meath recycled the ball well and got their reward when Costello found the net from close range.

Meath led 1-01 to 0-02 at that stage but only managed two more points in the half and neither of those were from play.

Cathal Heneghan scores a goal despite the attention of Meath goalkeeper Harry Hogan

Roscommon's goal came in the 15th minute and was scored by Heneghan who was brave at the back past when fisting in under pressure from a couple of Meath defenders after a quick hand-passing move by the visitors.

Five wides hurt Roscommon, who were on top but couldn't make their possession pay.

They eventually came good with a flurry of scores in the lead up to half-time when they reeled off seven points without reply.

Cox took his tally to 0-04 for the day when he converted a mark and then won the resulting kick-out and pointed again.

Meath were in real trouble at the back and were powerless to prevent the blitzkrieg with corner-back Robin Clarke losing his cool and earning a black card just before the break.

The scoreboard was broken and it was perhaps just as well because it wouldn't have made good reading for home supporters at half-time; Roscommon 1-12 Meath 1-03.

Roscommon got the margin out to ten points in the third quarter when Cox pointed again to nudge them 1-14 to 1-04 ahead but they were hit with a Meath revival in the closing 25 minutes.

Morris tagged on four points for Meath and newcomer Eoin Harkin popped up from defence with a point but the second goal they required never arrived and Roscommon held on with Cox pinching an insurance score from a free at the death.

Meath: Harry Hogan (0-02, 2f); Robin Clarke, Ronan Ryan, Eoin Harkin (0-01); Jason Scully, Donal Keogan, Gavin McGowan; Padraic Harnan, Ethan Devine; Shane McEntee, Thomas O'Reilly (0-01, 1f), Mathew Costello (1-00); Saran O Fionnagain, Jordan Morris (0-05, 3f), Joey Wallace.

Subs: Eamon Wallace (0-02) for O Fionnagain (29), Niall Kane for Scully (49), James Conlon for J Wallace (52), James McEntee for McGowan (59), Cillian O'Sullivan for Devine (61).

Roscommon: Colm Lavin; Fergal Lennon, Brian Stack, Eoin McCormack; Richard Hughes, Conor Hussey, Dylan Ruane; Ultan Harney (0-01), Eddie Nolan (0-01); Niall Kilroy, Enda Smith (0-02), Conor Heneghan (1-01); Conor Cox (0-07, 5f, 1m), Donie Smith (0-02), Cian McKeon (0-01, 1m).

Subs: Ciaran Lawless for Heneghan (57), Niall Higgins for Lennon (57), Ciaran Sugrue for Ruane (59), Shane Cunnane for Kilroy (63), Ben O'Carroll for McKeon (66).

Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo).