David Clifford's injury-time goal earned Kerry an unlikely 1-17 apiece Super 8s draw with Monaghan at Clones.
The Farney County led from the start almost until the end and were five to the good with an hour played, With an All-Ireland semi-final place within touching distance, however, they were dealt a sickening sucker punch when a desperate high ball into Kieran Donaghy in the 74th minute was deflected to Clifford, who slotted with his right boot to the corner of the net through a forest of defenders to dramatically keep his side's championship hopes alive.
The hosts controlled most of the match and were guilty of a number of poor wides (ten in total, the majority of them eminently scorable) but still looked certain to book an elusive first semi-final berth in 30 years as the clock ticked towards the customary 75 minutes. Instead, Kerry could now leapfrog them into the last four on scoring difference if they get the better of eliminated Kildare in a fortnight and Monaghan lose to Galway in Salthill.
Malachy O'Rourke's men led by 1-11 to 0-10 at half time and should have been further ahead, the outstanding Conor McManus supplying 1-5 before the break and goalkeeper Rory Beggan chipping in with three pointed frees. At the other end, all but three of the Kingdom's first-half points came from the boot of their on-form young free taker, Sean O'Shea.
Unsurprisingly, Kerry changed things up from last weekend by introducing veteran towering attacker Donaghy to their starting XV from the off, the former Footballer of the Year replacing James O'Donoghue in the full-forward line. That was one of two late changes from the Munster champions: at the other end of the pitch, Brian Kelly came in for Shane Murphy in goal.
The Farney County, meanwhile. also made a couple of eleventh-hour switches: captain Colin Walshe replacing Dessie Mone in the half-back line and Dermot Malone getting the nod ahead of Owen Duffy in their half-forward division.
The beaten Ulster semi-finalists got off to a flying start when McManus was brilliantly picked out by Kieran Duffy close to goal and the two-times All Star rounded his man and fired a low shot to the bottom left corner of the net beneath Kelly - almost exactly the same spot that Clifford would hit at the climax of this remarkable Phase Two encounter. On three minutes, the irrepressible Clontibret clubman tagged on a point but Kerry replied from a simple O'Shea free after Karl O'Connell uncharacteristically squandered a very presentable chance at the other end.
Niall Kearns, Conor McCarthy and O'Connell were all guilty of worrying Monaghan wides as the border county threatened to kick themselves out of contention inside the opening seven minutes. They were punished when O'Shea tapped over another simple free, awarded for an apparent foul off the ball in the full-back line.
Beggan pinged over an astonishing trademark free on eleven minutes when Donaghy was harshly penalised, McManus then missed a good chance to stretch the lead and it was a two-point swing as O'Shea pointed from play for the visitors. A foul on the marauding O'Connell presented McManus with a free, which he duly dispatched to make it double scores after 14 minutes, 1-3 to 0-3.
Kearns smashed a goal chance over the Kerry bar from close range after McCarthy's fisted effort rebounded off the left upright and Kerry's fourth point came from another O'Shea free awarded to the dismay of the expectant home support after O'Connell had cleanly dispossessed his man. But it was double scores again on 20 minutes when Darren Hughes pointed after a monster Beggan kick-out.
Corner back Tom O'Sullivan crept forward to become the second visiting player to register but McManus cancelled that score out from a free - 1-6 to 0-5 after 23 minutes. A big high delivery into Donaghy drew a foul from Vinny Corey and O'Shea knocked over his fourth converted free. The hosts worked the ball to McManus and he fired a superb score to bring his tally to 1-4 inside 25 minutes.
O'Shea was single-handedly keeping the Kingdom in the game, his sixth point of the day came from a sweetly-struck '45' and the gap was back to two in the 30th minute when Clifford spun to spear over a sumptuous score off that mercurial left boot of his.
David Clifford celebrates his splendid late goal for Kerry in Clones
Standing on the spot, Shane Carey somehow got enough purchase on his kick to tack on an eighth Monaghan point; again the response was an O'Shea free. A thundering Beggan free from 50 metres restored the hosts' three-point cushion with the interval looming and McManus nailed his fifth point following good work by Kearns in the first of three additional minutes at the end of the first half.
Beggan's 40th-ever championship point was cancelled out superbly by Clifford deep into stoppage time and Monaghan were full value for their four-point interval lead.
Donaghy picked up a yellow card that might well have been darker when throwing a wild elbow in O'Connell's direction but Kerry reduced their arrears with a 40th-minute free from O'Shea and it was back to a two-point game when O'Sullivan powered forward again to brilliant smack over his second point of the game.
Beggan missed two frees as the momentum turned in favour of the Munster champions and midfielder David Moran lofted over the fourth consecutive Kerry point as they eased within the minimum with 45 minutes played.
Eleven minutes after the restart, Monaghan brilliantly worked the ball to McManus and he showed his quality again by flashing over their first score of the second half. McManus' next effort almost produced a freak goal but cannoned back off the woodwork from a tight angle and he then engineered and converted a free to make it 1-13 to 0-13 after 51 minutes.
Up stepped Beggan with another unbelievable free from distance in the 55th minute and McManus (free) cancelled out a Paul Murphy point, bringing his tally to 1-8 and restoring the four-point differential with twelve minutes left. O'Connell left five between them on the hour but Clifford replied immediately with an inspirational point from the right wing.
Carey and O'Connell missed great chances to increase the hosts' advantage and a Stephen O'Brien free brought the Kingdom back within a goal with five minutes left to play. McManus supplied the insurance point from the softest of frees at the town end, 1-17 to 0-16 with 67 minutes gone.
Substitute Anthony Maher closed the gap in the 70th minute and, in the fourth of five added minutes, Kerry drew level when they went Route One and Donaghy knocked the ball down to teen sensation Clifford, who slotted the ball into the corner of the net.
Monaghan came forward again and created what should have been a match-winning overlap but they panicked and spurned a glorious opportunity to restore their lead as victory slipped through their fingers. Great spirit from Kerry to claim a point but the Farney County played all the football and left this game behind them.
Monaghan - R Beggan (0-4f); K Duffy, D Wylie, R Wylie; K O'Connell (0-2), V Corey, C Walshe; N Kearns, D Hughes (0-1); R McAnespie, D Malone, S Carey (0-1); F Kelly, C McManus (1-9, 0-5f), C McCarthy. Subs: K Hughes for C McCarthy, O Duffy for S Carey, D Mone for F Kelly.
Kerry - B Kelly; R Shanahan, M Griffin, T O'Sullivan (0-2); P Murphy (0-1), P Crowley, G White; D Moran (0-1), J Barry; K McCarthy, S O'Shea (0-8, 6f, 1'45), S O'Brien (0-1f); D Clifford (1-3), K Donaghy, P Geaney. Subs: M Burns for K McCarthy, J O'Donoghue for P Geaney, B O Beaglaioch for M Griffin, D O'Sullivan for S O'Shea, A Maher (0-1) for J Barry, P Geaney for T O'Sullivan.
Referee - M Deegan.