Wexford overcame a patchy display to maintain their perfect record in Division 1 Group A of the Allianz Hurling League at Chadwicks Wexford Park on Saturday as Offaly's relegation fears heighten.
Free-taker Luke O’Connor handed the purposeful midlanders the initiative for a fifth time after 55 minutes (2-10 to 0-12).
But Wexford then asserted control, substitutes Connal Flood (two) and teenager Corey Byrne-Dunbar on his league debut contributing to the home-side outstripping their rivals with ten of the game’s last twelve points.
Regardless, it was unconvincing Wexford showing, with manager Darragh Egan quite animated on the sideline as he sought to spark his charges from their slumber following the vitality of their victories over Limerick, Clare and Galway.
Offaly’s faint hopes of securing a second campaign in the top-flight now rest on their visit to similarly under pressure Limerick.
A minute’s silence was observed in advance of Saturday’s game in respect of Paul Shefflin, a Ballyhale Shamrocks’ club-mate of Offaly manager Michael Fennelly.
Offaly hearts were in lodged in their mouths in the opening minutes after a long-range Jack O'Connor free broke off the woodwork and into the square before the danger was cleared.
An out of sorts home-side struggled to find any rhythm, and Luke O’Connor and goalie Stephen Corcoran assisted Offaly into a 0-03 to 0-01 lead after ten minutes after an opening exchange.
Offaly dashed 1-03 to 0-02 clear on thirteen minutes when a long clearance was fetched to the left of goal by Paddy Clancy who spotted O’Connor alone on the far edge of the square to mine a major blow.
Rory O’Connor’s steady free-taking and a Diarmuid O’Keeffe equaliser tied matters on 0-6 to 1-3 after 21 minutes.
Offaly midfielder Adrian Cleary was yellow-carded for an offence in the build-up to the leveller.
But the Shinrone man responded superbly when immediately nudging Offaly back in front before Joey Keenaghan and O’Connor (free) reasserted the Faithful County by 1-06 to 0-06.
A rash of wides halted any progress by either side before the cheers of Wexford supporters to a goal from Conor McDonald were silenced as his shot found the side-netting.
But the home-side netted a second equaliser after 35 minutes when turning over possession as Shane Reck and Conor Hearne combined to feed Rory O’Connor, who raced in from the left wing to unleash an unstoppable finish (1-7 apiece) with two challengers earning bookings.
And the St. Martin’s man added a sixth free to haul Wexford ahead by 1-08 to 1-07 at half-time.
Offaly resumed brightly when regaining the upper-hand through a couple of Luke O’Connor points.
And their ambitions of a first victory were boosted on 48 minutes when O’Connor drilled home a penalty after Eoghan Parlon had been impeded (2-09 to 1-10).
Wexford eventually assumed control, with Connal Flood emerging from the 'bench to supply two points and corner-back Conor Devitt also helping them turn the screw by 1-15 to 2-10 after 57 minutes.
They didn’t relent, and Rory O’Connor went close with a goaling chance as Wexford emerged relieved and focussed on their top-of-the-table duel at home to Cork in a fortnight.
Wexford: James Lawlor; Shane Reck, Matthew O’Hanlon, Conor Devitt (0-1); Gavin Bailey, Damien Reck, Diarmuid O’Keeffe (0-1); Conor Hearne, Jack O’Connor (0-1); Charlie McGuckin, Oisín Foley, Kevin Foley (capt., 0-2); Rory Higgins, Conor McDonald (0-2), Rory O’Connor (1-11, -0-9 frees).
Subs: Liam Óg McGovern (0-1) for McGuckin (42), Corey Byrne-Dunbar (0-1) for Higgins (42), Connal Flood (0-2) for Bailey (44), Pádraig Foley for McDonald (62), Cian Byrne for Hearne (66).
Offaly: Stephen Corcoran (0-1 free); Paddy Delaney, Ben Conneely (capt.), Jack Screeney; Killian Sampson, David King, Ciarán Burke; Joey Keenaghan (0-2), Adrian Cleary (0-2); Brian Duignan, Jason Sampson, Eoghan Parlon; Luke O’Connor (2-6, 1-0 penalty, 0-4 frees), Paddy Clancy (0-1), Liam Langton.
Subs: Eimhin Kelly for Delaney (HT), John Murphy for Duignan (48), David Nally for Langton (62), Pádraig Cantwell for Clancy (67), Morgan Watkins for Parlon (70).
Referee: Nathan Wall (Cork).