By Paul Keane
Luke Connolly's 2-5 haul in Portlaoise fired club kingpins Nemo Rangers through to yet another AIB All-Ireland club football final.
But Larry Kavanagh's side did it the hard way and required extra-time to see off back to back Ulster champions Slaughtneil to secure a March 17 final clash with Corofin.
The seven-times All-Ireland winners trailed by four points early in the second-half of normal time and looked in real trouble.
But a brilliant third quarter display brought them right back into it and it was Slaughtneil who eventually required a 64th minute Christopher Bradley point to force extra-time at 1-12 apiece.
Slaughtneil were favourites beforehand but there was only one team in it during the additional 20 minutes as Nemo outscored the south-Derry side 0-7 to 0-0 in the first period and then added a Connolly goal late on.
Tomas O Se, at 39, was excellent for Nemo too and lasted the entire game, weighing in with two points from the half-back line.
Slaughtneil came into the contest as considerable favourites after another impressive Ulster campaign and hit the ground running at the midlands venue.
Shane McGuigan notched back to back points, both of which were set up by Cormac O'Doherty, before scores from Brian Cassidy and Bradley.
That left Slaughtneil with a four-point advantage and Nemo didn't register their first score until the 20th minute through Connolly.
That was a converted free from the corner-forward and the Trabeg side's first from play didn't arrive until the 24th minute when Paul Kerrigan split the posts from the right.
Nemo were on a roll at that stage and the 16-time Munster champions reduced the gap to the minimum with a clever fisted point by Kerry icon O Se.
Slaughtneil soon put daylight between the teams again with their own three-in-a-row of points from Bradley and Cassidy, moving them 0-7 to 0-3 ahead.
Connolly won a free for Nemo that Barry O'Driscoll converted in the last action of the half to leave Slaughtneil with a 0-7 to 0-4 half-time lead.
They were full value for it with centre-back Christopher McKaigue edging his personal duel with Kerrigan and setting up Cassidy's second point.
Full-forward O'Doherty was terrific throughout the first-half for the Derry side who put together some excellent passing movements in attack though consistently ran into a fortified Nemo defence.
Nemo were terrific in the third quarter and outscored Slaughtneil by 1-5 to 0-0 between the 34th and 44th minutes to take an unlikely 1-9 to 0-8 lead.
A turnover by Nemo midfielder Alan O'Donovan on Ronan Bradley in the 39th minute was greeted like a score by the southerners who took huge energy from it.
O Se was inspired in this period and scored his second point before playing a key role in Connolly's 44th minute goal.
He fed Conor Horgan whose point attempt dropped short though Connolly improvised with a clever flicked effort that broke down favourably for him to boot home.
Slaughtneil looked stunned but somehow turned things around with an excellent finally 20 minutes or so.
Bradley kicked back to back points before sub Se McGuigan's high ball in broke kindly for O'Doherty to net from close range in the 50th minute.
Bradley eventually forced extra-time with his 64th minute free when Karl McKaigue was fouled though Nemo dominated extra-time, impressively outscoring their opponents by 1-7 to 0-2 in the additional 20 minutes.
L Connolly 2-5 (0-3f), B O'Driscoll 0-5 (0-4f), P Kerrigan 0-3, T O Se 0-2, C Horgan 0-1, J Horgan 0-1, J Donovan 0-1, S Cronin 0-1.
C Bradley 0-9 (0-6f), C O'Doherty 1-0, Shane McGuigan 0-2, B Cassidy 0-2, Se McGuigan 0-1.
A. McMullan; P. McNeill, B. Rodgers, K. McKaigue; K. Feeney, C. McKaigue, F. McEldowney; P. Bradley, P. Cassidy; S. McGuigan, R. Bradley, M. McGrath; C. Bradley, C O'Doherty, B. Cassidy.
B McGuigan for McEldowney (47), Se McGuigan for McGrath (40). G Bradley for R Bradley (66), C McAllister for Feeney (70). P McGuigan for O'Doherty (h/t, e/t).
M. Martin; A. Cronin, A. O'Reilly, K. O'Donovan; T. O Se, S. Cronin, K. Fulignati; A. O'Donovan, J. Horgan; B. O'Driscoll, P. Kerrigan, C. O'Brien; P. Gumley, L. Connolly, C. Dalton.
C Horgan for Gumley (22), J Donovan for J Horgan (59), M Dorgan for A O'Donovan (64). C Kiely for Dalton (76), R Donovan for Martin (77), A Grainey for Connolly (81).
M. Deegan (Laois).