All Ireland SFC Qualifiers: Gritty Armagh advance
All Ireland SFC Round Three Qualifier
ARMAGH 2-16 CLARE 1-15
By Orla Bannon at the Athletic Grounds
Armagh found some late inspiration to book a place in Monday's All-Ireland SFC fourth round qualifier draw, with a whirlwind 1-4 in stoppage time to end Clare's season in the Athletic Grounds.
Clare looked to be heading through when David Tubridy followed up his own saved penalty to tap the rebound into the net to put the visitors four points ahead after 67 minutes.
They still led by three as the game approached the 70th minute, with Armagh's 18 wides looking like the statistic that would finish their back-door run.
However, some incredible leadership by Rory Grugan and a match-winning haul of 1-2 from the Armagh substitutes turned this game on its head right at the death.
McElroy's goal levelled it at the start of six minutes of stoppage time and there a furious flurry of points from Grugan, subs Gavin McParland and Ross McQuillan followed by Aidan Forker put the gloss on an incredible afternoon for Armagh, who are now just one game away from equalling last year's progress to the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
Orchard skipper Grugan had a huge role in the turnaround with three of his six points from play coming in the last 10 minutes in sweltering conditions in the Athletic Grounds.
Armagh made the start they'd wanted in a lively opening half and raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after 12 minutes.
They moved the ball forward quickly and tried to hit the men inside but at times the final pass and shooting accuracy let them down and that was a growing feature of the opening half.
After a ropey first 10 minutes or so, Clare found their feet and scored five unanswered points to gain a real foothold in the game.
Armagh were wide open through the middle of their defence and allowed Clare to sail through unopposed with most of their scores coming directly in front of the posts.
Keelan Sexton's superb pass teed up Eimhin Courtney for one before scoring himself, then David Tubridy and the impressive Jamie Malone nudged Clare in front.
Armagh had plenty of possession, but weren't always smart with it and kicked 11 first-half wides to Clare's six.
They did draw level at six points apiece with a Niall Grimley free and Ryan McShane's point which came after a slick counterattack, but Clare scored of the next four points before the break to lead 0-9 to 0-7.
Malone forced a superb diving save from Blaine Hughes but scored his second point a few minutes later with the direction of Clare's runs causing problems for Armagh tracking back.
There was loads of twists and turns in the second half with Clare dominant in the third quarter and opening up a 0-13 to 0-8 lead heading into the final quarter.
That's when things got interesting with Andrew Murnin's smart finish on the turn starting the first Armagh revival. That left them a point behind, but Clare thought they'd weathered the storm with Turbidy's goal.
A high challenge by Armagh sub Ryan Owens on Courtney gave Clare a penalty and while Blaine Hughes saved the shot, Tubridy followed up the rebound and tapped it home.
There was still time for one more twist, with McElroy's goal igniting Armagh's furious finish to book their place in the last 12 of the All-Ireland series.
Scorers for Armagh: Rory Grugan 0-6 (2fs), Andrew Murnin 1-1, Niall Grimley 0-4 (4fs), Joe McElroy 1-0, Ryan McShane 0-1, Aidan Forker 0-1, Ross McQuillan 0-1, Gavin McParland 0-1.
Scorers for Clare: David Tubridy 1-3, Eoin Cleary 0-3 (1f), Jamie Malone 0-3, Eimhin Courtney 0-2, Pearse Lillis 0-2, Keelan Sexton 0-1, Cathal O'Connor 0-1
ARMAGH: Blaine Hughes; Patrick Burns, Aaron McKay, Gregory McCabe; Mark Shields, Brendan Donaghy, Aidan Forker; Charlie Vernon, Connaire Mackin; Rory Grugan, Jemar Hall, Niall Grimley; Ryan McShane, Andrew Murnin, Stephen Sheridan
Subs: Niall Rowland for Mackin (HT), Ryan Owens for McKay (42), Ross McQuillan for Hall (50), Joe McElroy for Sheridan (55), Gavin McParland for McShane (65), Jason Duffy for Shields (70, BC).
CLARE: Robert Eyres; Gordon Kelly, Cillian Brennan, Eoghan Collins; Cian O'Dea, Aaron Fitzgerald, Pearse Lillis; Gary Brennan, Cathal O'Connor; Ciaran Malone, Eoin Cleary, Jamie Malone; Eimhin Courtney, Keelan Sexton, David Tubridy.
Subs: Kevin Harnett for Collins (HT), Killian Roche for Eyres (50), Conal O hAinifein for O'Dea (57, BC), Gearoid O'Brien for Fitzgerald (63), Gavin Cooney for Sexton (65).
REFEREE: Fergal Kelly (Longford).