Donegal ..... 0-13
MAYO have pulled off a salvage mission of Houdini proportions at Ballybofey today.
A brilliant point from play on his weaker right foot by Kevin McLoughlin with 20 seconds remaining ensured the visitors of the draw that guaranteed their place in the top flight of the Allianz National Footbal League for another season.
The Knockmore ace showed his value to the side with a massive score executed with composure and craft under intense pressure.
Stephen Rochford's charges had trailed by two points when the match entered its four minutes of added time.
Belmullet defender Eoin O'Donoghue cut the deficit to the minumum before Donegal's Patrick McBreathy missed the opportunity of restoring his side's lead at the other end, his tame effort falling into the hands of Mayo goalkeeper David Clarke.
It was from the subsequent counter-attacking move instigated by Clarke that Mayo found the nerve and concentration to orchestrate the opening from which McLoughlin was so clinical.
It was a heartbreaking way for any side to be relegated, but Mayo deserved immense credit for refusing to let their heads drop at any stage of a demanding match.
A central figure in keeping Mayo's hopes alive was Crossmolina full-forward Conor Loftus who registered six second half points, five from frees, after a opening half in which the side's shooting had been very, very poor.
Mayo found it hard to come to terms with the authority and leadership of Donegal ace Michael Murphy, who was outstanding at midfield, but their ability to keep battling stood them in good stead in the end to ensure they will be playing top flight football for the 22nd consecutive season in 2019.
The player who best epitomised Mayo's spirit and energy was defender Caolan Crowe who had arguably his finest match in a Mayo jersey.
Speaking to TG4 Sport afterwards, Mayo manager Stephen Rochford praised his charges for their application and character.
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Frank McGlynn, Leo McLoone, Eamonn Doherty; Michael Murphy, Hugh McFadden; Ciaran Thompson, Odhran MacNiallais, Paul Brennan; Niall O'Donnell, Patrick McBrearty, Jamie Brennan.
Subs: Mark McHugh for O'Donnell 45; Conor Morrison for McGrath; Stephen McBrearty for Thompson both 58; Cian Mulligan for Brennan 67.
Donegal scorers: Patrick McBrearty 0-4,2f; Michael Murphy 0-2,1f; Jamie Brennan, Eoghan Ban Gallagher 0-2 each; Frank McGlynn, Odhran MacNiallais, Ciaran Thompson 0-1 each.
Mayo: David Clarke; Caolan Crowe, David Drake, Eoin O'Donoghue; Colm Boyle, Stephen Coen, Paddy Durcan; Seamus O'Shea, Tom Parsons; Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O'Shea, Diarmuid O'Connor; Jason Doherty, Andy Moran, Conor Loftus.
Subs: Michael Hall for Drake 64; Fergal Boland for S O Shea 65; Barry Moran for Parson 67.
Mayo scorers: Conor Loftus 0-7,6f; Andy Moran 0-3; Kevin McLoughlin 0-2; Eoin O'Donoghue 0-1.