Kildalkey overcame the concession of an early goal to dethrone Kilmessan in this closely contested Ted Murtagh SHC quarter-final at Pairc Tailteann on Saturday evening.
There was never more than a goal between the sides with a younger Kildalkey finishing strong to outlast Kilmessan in their pursuit for a last four place.
Darren O'Reilly's 55th minute free for Kilmessan left it 2-8-each but Kildalkey outscored the champions by 0-4 to 0-1 in the time remaining.
Derek Doran and Enda Keogh also contributed to this significant scoring phase as Pat O'Halloran's men advanced to a semi-final clash with Kiltale who topped Group B.
Even though scores were relatively low and close over the hour, they were only tied four times, all in the second half.
Having led briefly in the opening half, Kildalkey made a decisive break in the 49th minute when Conneely restored their lead from a free. The men in royal blue jerseys maintained it to the end.
It might have been easier for the eventual winners but Kilmessan netminder and captain Mark Brennan kept out Gary Kelly's 51st minute goal attempt. The scores were tie once more before Kildalkey made that decisive burst for victory.
Less than 50 seconds in, the champions drew first blood at the hospital end where Kevin Keena goaled. Nearly 13 minutes were to pass before Kilmesssan added to their tally.
Kildalkey responded positively to this early setback to control the remainder of the opening quarter. A Paddy Conneely pointed free was followed by an excellent Francis Doran score from play to leave it 0-2 to 1-0 after six minutes.
Kildalkey's wide count mounted, reaching five before the end of the opening quarter. Pat O'Halloran's men were significantly boosted in the 12th minute when Conneely goaled with Gary Kelly providing the assist.
The ding-dong nature of the exchanges continued seconds later with Ger O'Neill sending over an excellent point for the champions. Kilmessan received a further boost in the 18th minute when Nicky Horan doubled on Darren Reilly's long distance free to leave it 2-1 to 1-2.
Kilmessan remained in front to the interval with the sides sharing a point apiece in the remainder of the half. Full-forward Enda Fitzgerald pulled one back for Kildalkey before his Kilmessan counterpart Kevin Keena closed the first-half scoring with a 23rd minute point.
Kilmessan led by 2-2 to 1-3 at half-time. Scores were scarce but the closeness of the exchanges held everyone's attention.
Derek Doran's 35th minute goal - after Gary Kelly's shot was parried by Mark Brennan - left it 2-4 to 2-3 to Kildalkey. Kilmessan responded with a brace of Kevin Keena' points, the first of which tied the scores at 2-4 each.
There was never more than a point between the sides until that late surge saw Kildalkey advance.
Kildalkey - Conor Flynn; Sean Corrigan (0-1), Stephen Forde, Eoin Potterton; Padraig Geoghegan, Enda Keogh (0-1), Mairtin Doran; Sean Heavey, Maurice Keogh; Francis Doran (0-1), Derek Doran (1-1), Tony Fox; Gary Kelly, Enda Fitzgerald (0-2), Paddy Conneely (1-6, 0-5fs, 1 65). Subs - Gary Watters for Potterton (ht), Padraig Keogh for F Doran (43), Johnny Murray for Kelly (60).
Kilmessan - Mark Brennan; Paddy McGovern, Shane Brennan, Paddy Maguire; Charlie Keena, Peter Farrell, Malcolm Doyle; Martin Horan, Ger O'Neill (0-1); Pauric Burke, Nicky Horan (1-0), Marty Mulhall (0-1); Kevin O'Reilly, Kevin Kenna (1-4), Darren Reilly (0-3 fs). Subs - Anton O'Neill for O'Reilly (42), Ryan Montague for C Keena (48), Tony Horan for Mulhall (52).
Referee - Pat Gannon (Killyon)