It was almost the perfect performance from Tyrone, but, in the end, Mickey Harte’s charges left Croke Park disappointed to only take a point.
The Red Hands had stifled and frustrated a notoriously clinical Dublin attack, defending patiently and in numbers for almost the entire game.
Then, in the 69th minute, with Tyrone deservedly leading by three, Dublin pounced for an equalising goal.
Halftime substitute Eoghan O’Gara was the first to react as the ball bounced off Niall Morgan’s left hand upright, and the Templeogue/ Synge St attacker squared for Dean Rock to palm past a diving Morgan.
Morgan had the chance minutes later to win the game for Tyrone but his last gasp free kick landed wide of Stephen Cluxton’s goal.
While purists may complain about the Tyrone style of play, the system in place is one that suits the players at the disposal of the Tyrone management team, and it’s proving to be the most comfortable many of this Tyrone squad have looked in quite some time.
Had the Red Hands taken even a fraction of the chances they created then they might well have been out of sight when Rock pounced for the all important goal.
Tyrone never trailed the Metropolitans, taking the lead in fourth minute, Sean Cavanagh converting a straight forward free after a foul on Darren McCurry.
Dublin responded a couple of minutes later as Dean Rock replied with a placed ball.
It was clear even at this early stage what the Tyrone gameplan was defend in numbers and the back and use the natural ball carriers in the team to hit Dublin on the break.
Justin McMahon showed that for all his defensive abilities he was more than capable of kicking points himself in the eighth minute when he slotted over a neatly taken effort from play.
Colm Cavanagh and Padraig McNulty put in massive shifts for Tyrone, assisting in defence and carrying the ball at the heart of the Dublin defence. McNulty drew a foul for Tyrone’s next point, Sean Cavanagh’s effort clipping the post and going over, with the point confirmed by Hawkeye.
Jim Gavin’s men were struggling to break down the Tyrone rearguard but they did manage to keep themselves in touch with points from play, first from Dean Rock and then from Bernard Brogan.
Tyrone responded once again however, McNulty once again running at the Dublin defence and this time adding a finish to match the run.
Four minutes later, McNulty was fouled once again by the Dublin defence and Darren McCurry applied the finish from the placed ball to leave Tyrone leading by two.
It should have been more but Tyrone were guilty of some sloppy finishing, kicking a number of poor wides and, more frustratingly from a Tyrone perspective, five short over the course of the first half.
For Dublin, Ballymum attacker Dean Rock kept them in touch as he added three frees in the final 13 minutes of the half to bring Dublin onto level terms at the break, Niall Morgan slotting over a 48 metre free kick for the Red Hands.
They were the first to register in the second half, Sean Cavanagh accurate from a free after Peter Harte had been fouled.
Tyrone withstood a Dublin onslaught in the opening ten minutes of the second half showing great patience and discipline to force Dublin into wild shots from distance.
It was midfielder Emmet Ó Conghaile who broke his side’s second half duck, finding a rare gap in the Tyrone defence to point.
Tyrone though were looking increasingly dangerous on the counter attack with Mattie Donnelly positioned increasingly at the edge of the square,
Donnelly kicked the next point, taking advantage of a fine Justin McMahon pass and, a minute later, Barry Tierney fired over a point from the Cusack Stand wing to give Tyrone a two point cushion.
Dublin sensing the danger responded immediately, first Dean Rock and then substitute Paul Flynn kicked points for the Dubs, bringing them back on terms.
Tyrone, to their credit, could have panicked at the quick Dublin response, but, with Tiernan McCann and Ronan McNabb providing he impetus from defence, they responded with points.
Mark Bradley got the first neatly applying the finish after a patient build up.
Three minutes later Darren McCurry converted a free after a foul on Mattie Donnelly to extend the lead to two points, before Sean Cavanagh added a free after Padraig McNulty was upended.
In between times Donnelly had given Tiernan McCann a brilliant goal chance but the Killyclogher man’s effort was smothered by an in-form Stephen Cluxton.
Tyrone looked to be holding on for victory until Rock popped up with the goal.
Morgan had a late chance to win it but couldn’t find the required accuracy to give the Red Hands the two points.