A last-gasp TJ Reid point was all that prevented Kilkenny from suffering a major upset as the Cats managed to salvage a 1-14 to 0-17 draw against Dublin in O'Moore Park.
The Dubs took the lead a minute into injury time in their Leinster semi-final, but Reid's equaliser with the last puck of the game dashed their hopes.
The sides were level at half time at 0-8 apiece, with Dublin having had the advantage of a strong down field breeze in the first half.
The Dubs came out of the blocks in the second period with great intensity, scoring two early points, but an early Walter Walsh goal put Kilkenny back on the front foot.
However Kilkenny failed to use the wind well and eventually were the more relieved team to survive and renew hostilities next Saturday evening at 7pm at the same venue.
Despite playing with a strong wind in the opening stages, Dublin were by far the slower team to settle into this tie and while both sides opened with a brace of wides, Dublin’s opportunities were far more clear cut and really should have been taken.
Eoin Larkin finally got the game’s first score from a free in the sixth minute and less than sixty seconds later Walter Walsh converted the first point from open play, slotting the ball over the bar from a tight angle after a powerful run down the right wing.
Dublin could have taken a sudden lead when Paul Ryan found himself clean through on goal a minute later, but he blasted his ground shot straight at Eoin Murphy, failing to capitalise on confusion in the Kilkenny defence with JJ Delaney and Conor Fogarty clashing while going for the same ball.
Richie Hogan stretched Kilkenny’s lead out to three soon after, but once Danny Sutcliffe finally got the Dubs into the game with a 12th minute point, the Boys in Blue settled down and began to cause real problems for Kilkenny at midfield and half forward.
Dublin drew level in the 17th minute through a fine Joey Boland score from range and while they continued to rack up the wides – nine in the first half in total – they dug deep and looked in control defensively.
Only two Kilkenny forwards scored from play in the first half – a statistic that was to remain intact until Reid became the third player to raise a flag from play with his equaliser in the dying seconds.
Nonetheless, the Dubs’ lack of potency up front looked likely to be their downfall and when Walter Walsh crashed the ball to the net in the 43rd minute to put the Leinster and All Ireland champions back in front, few supporters would have given Anthony Daly’s men much chance of pulling off a victory on a day when puck-outs with the wind were landing on the edge of the large parallelogram.
However with Peter Kelly in imperious form at full-back and most of the defenders around him edging their battles, Dublin hung on in there and some wonderful scores from Shane Durkin, Mark Schutte and Conal Keaney punctuated a steady stream of scores from Joey Boland.
Keaney became the eighth Dublin player to score from play when he equalised with five minutes of normal time to play, and those closing minutes were nothing short of enthralling for every one of the 9,674 supporters in attendance.
First Keaney drew a foul in the right hand corner and Boland held his nerve to convert from a tricky angle, before a rash tackle from Ryan O’Dwyer on Richie Hogan allowed Eoin Larkin to level the game once more.
Boland again put his side in front from a free with just seconds remaining after good pressure from the Dublin forwards forced an over-carrying turnover in the Kilkenny half back line.
However just as the crowd went into a frenzy with time seemingly expired, Eoin Murphy’s puckout was sent deep into the Dublin full back line and for the first time in what seemed like forever, the Dublin backs allowed the sliothar to bounce and run loose.
Kilkenny mined the crucial possession and with the final act of the game, substitute TJ Reid swept the ball over the bar to set up an eagerly anticipated replay next weekend.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, C Fogarty; T Walsh, B Hogan, K Joyce; L Ryan, M Rice, C Buckley, R Power, E Larkin (0-07, frees); W Walsh (1-04), R Hogan (0-02), C Fennelly.
Subs: P Hogan for P Murphy (33 mins), TJ Reid (0-01) for Rice (HT), A Fogarty for Fennelly (59), M Ruth for Power (62)
Dublin: G Maguire; P Schutte (0-01), P Kelly, N Corcoran; S Hiney, L Rushe, M Carton; J McCaffrey (0-01), J Boland (0-09, 0-07 frees); C Keaney (0-1), R O’Dwyer, D Sutcliffe (0-01); P Ryan (0-01, free), C McCormack, D Treacy.
Subs: D O’Callaghan (0-01) for Ryan (18 mins), Mark Schutte (0-01) for McCormack (HT), S Durkin (0-01) for Sutcliffe (46), S Lambert for Treacy (57), E Dillon for Hiney (62).
Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary)