Ulster duo get squeezed at the death
For Dublin, the pre-match arithmetic was simple: a draw in Clones would guarantee progress to another Division 1 final, come what may in Castlebar or Killarney.
They duly went and won, albeit via the most circuitous and thrilling of routes.
But who would join them?
In the end, it was Kerry, courtesy of their seven-point victory over Tyrone.
And yet for a long time yesterday, the prospect of another Dublin/Kerry showdown - and a repeat of last year's NFL final - looked a dim and distant prospect.
Even as the games veered deep into their respective fourth quarters, it seemed as if neither would make it to Croke Park next Sunday.
At that stage Donegal were still protecting an admittedly shrinking lead against Mayo in Elverys MacHale Park, while Dublin were trying to catch their gung-ho Monaghan hosts.
If results had stayed that way, it would be an all-Ulster Division 1 decider between Donegal and Monaghan.
But while Dublin finished with a late flourish, crowned by Jack McCaffrey's goal, it was all going pear-shaped for Rory Gallagher's young troops in Mayo.
Playing with the wind, Donegal had recovered from the concession of an early Cillian O'Connor penalty to lead by 0-11 to 1-5 at the break. By the 39th minute, Cian Mulligan had kicked them four clear.
But they wouldn't score again as their challenge - and arguably their discipline too - fragmented in the face of increasing Mayo pressure.
One huge bust-up resulted in yellow cards for Donegal trio Jason McGee, Ciarán Thompson and Michael Murphy, along with Mayo sub Aidan O'Shea.
Eamonn Doherty then received a straight red after lashing out at O'Shea, whose 46th minute introduction was central to Mayo's comeback.
With Donegal heads dropping, O'Connor added four more points to seal a 1-12 to 0-13 victory and end a topsy-turvy spring on an upbeat note for Stephen Rochford's men. Mayo had started the day realising that defeat could see them topple through the trap door - on the proviso that Cavan beat an already-relegated Roscommon.
That was still a live possibility at half-time, the sides tied at 0-8 apiece in Dr Hyde Park ... and even more so when Dara McVeety goaled for Cavan within two minutes of the restart.
But Roscommon hit back straight away via a goal from Cathal Compton, and then hit the next three points to establish firm control.
Kevin McStay's embattled troops eventually won by 1-13 to 1-10, ending a demoralising sequence of eight consecutive SFC and league defeats.
Meanwhile, one of the day's most dramatic conclusions happened in Division 3 where an injury-time Michael Quinlivan goal handed Tipperary promotion at the expense of their Armagh hosts.
Quinlivan's late strike completed a second half-trick for the Clonmel player and sealed a 3-8 to 0-16 win, denying Kieran McGeeney's men who had led by four points with five minutes remaining.